Saints 1st Quarter + 1 Game Report Card (Offense, Special Teams, Coaches)

Kyle T. Mosley

Out-of-sync, no rhythm, off-beat, undisciplined are a few of the words used to describe the first-quarter + 1 game performance of the New Orleans Saints.

The team has allowed their opponents to set the tempo early in contests. In the Saints' two losses, being off-schedule was definitely the issue.  It almost became a problem versus the Los Angeles Chargers rookie QB Herbert on Monday night.  Maintaining drives with third-down conversions, steady play calls, and better execution should have been the offensive focus this bye week.

A 3-2 record is average for a veteran-led New Orleans Saints team. September is not an awfully kind month to the Saints under Payton's reign. But, they could keep their 14-game October winning streak by overcoming the 20-3 deficit against the Chargers.  

What do Coach Payton and his team need to overcome after a "so-so" first quarter of the season? Most of all, how can they make the playoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Below is my first-quarter plus one game report card for the New Orleans Saints.

Great Kamara

OFFENSE

  • Most Outstanding Player: RB Alvin Kamara
  • Breakout Players: WR Tre'Quan Smith and WR Emmanuel Sanders
  • Best Rookie Performance: RG Cesar Ruiz
  • Best Veteran Performance: C Erick McCoy

The entire unit did not perform up to the usual standards guided by quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton in the first five games. They are still averaging 29.2 points per game (7 points for the defense in the Bucs game). 

If they can clean-up the penalties, broken blocking assignments, and get healthy, expect more fireworks to come from Brees, Kamara, Thomas, Sanders, and Cook.

POSITION/UNIT
GRADE
COMMENTS

QUARTERBACKS

C+

Drew Brees is beginning to get his groove back, but Taysom Hill is no longer the Saints well-kept secret in the NFL.  It may be time to unleash Jameis Winston for several plays in the 2nd quarter of the year.

RUNNING BACKS

B+

Saints running backs Kamara at 4.6 yards per carry and Murray 4.2 yards per carry are not being consistently utilized by head coach and offensive playcaller Sean Payton.  Taysom Hill's running plays are limited, but he did score a rushing touchdown in the Chargers game.

WIDE RECEIVERS

B

Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'Quan Smith, and Marquez Callaway have done their best without the elite talent of Michael Thomas in the lineup.  Thomas will return in Week 7 versus the Panthers.

TIGHT ENDS

C

The two I's, injuries and inconsistency, are not a good mix for any position.  Jared Cook and Josh Hill have missed time.  Adam Trautman was a healthy scratch for Garrett Griffin in the Chargers game.  The Saints had tight end Ethan Wolf back at Saints HQ for another tryout this week.  We will need to pay attention to what happens with Trautman.  

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

B

Again, injuries seem to plague this position group each year.  G Andrus Peat returned after a high-ankle injury in Week 1.  Easton was injured in Week 5.  Ruiz returned from injury and is playing well at right guard in his rookie campaign.   Armstead and Ramczyk were nicked-up in a couple of games.  The one constant has been center Erik McCoy who has played extremely well in 2020.

OFFENSIVE UNIT

B-

The entire unit did not perform up to the usual standards guided by Drew Brees and Sean Payton in the first five games.   They are still averaging 30.3 point per game.  If they can clean-up the penalties and broken blocking assignments in order give Brees more time in the pocket, expect more fireworks to come from Brees, Kamara, Thomas, Sanders, and Cook.

USATSI_13649881_168388561_lowres
© Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Most Outstanding Player: K Wil Lutz
  • Breakout Player:  WR Marquez Callaway
  • Best Rookie Performance:  WR Marquez Callaway

Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead have been magnificent in the first five games.  Both received NFC Special Teams Player of the Wee honors from the NFL in Week 1 (Morstead) and Week 5 (Lutz).

WR Deonte Harris was his usual explosive self before an injury. RB Alvin Kamara and WR Marquez Callaway have taken over and performed magnificent filling Harris' All-Pro void. Callaway made great decisions and could have notched more yardage off on punt returns if it were not for teammates' penalties.

POSITION/UNIT
GRADE
COMMENTS

PLACEKICKER

A+

Outstanding performance!

PUNTER

A

Solid and Dependable as always

KICK & PUNT RETURNERS

B

Deonte Harris was his usually explosive self before an injury.  Alvin Kamara and Marquez Callaway have taken over and performed very good filling Harris' All-Pro void.  Callaway made great decisions and could have notched more yardage off of punt returns if it were not for teammates' penalties.

SPECIAL TEAMS UNIT

B-

Uncharacteristic penalties have extended drives, and given opponents excellent field-position in games.  What's puzzling is the fact they have come from the leaders on special teams.  Justin Hardee and JT Gray have been injured.   If it were not for Lutz, Morstead, and the returners, this grade could have been a C-.

Sean Payton, Saints Head Coach
Sean Payton, Saints Head Coach,  Credit: USA Today Sports

COACHING

  • Most Outstanding Coach(es):  Ryan Nielsen (Defensive Line) and Joel Thomas (Running Backs)
  • Notable Coaching: Michael Hodges (Linebackers)

Coach admitted his play calls have been uneven at the beginning of the season. The positive note is even as out-of-sync, and off-beat the Saints offense has remained competitive and producing 29.2 points per game. The coaching has not been poor. The adjustments and messages are slow but finally getting through to the players.  

UNIT
GRADE
COMMENTS

HEAD COACH

C+

Coach admitted his play calls have been uneven at the beginning of the season.  The positive note is even out-of-sync and off-beat the Saints offense has remained competitive and producing over 29.2 points per game.

OFFENSIVE ASSISTANTS

B-

Curtis Johnson had prepared the wide receivers well without Michael Thomas.  Emmanuel Sanders is starting to gel with Brees.  The offensive line (Roushar) and running backs coaches (Thomas) are doing a great job with personnel.  Pete Carmichael is maintaining his calming nature between Payton and his unit.   Improving.

DEFENSIVE ASSISTANTS

C

Concern is looming regarding the Saints secondary.  Aaron Glenn's squad is puzzling.  Miscommunication, missed assignments, and poor coverage is not how many believed the Saints defensive backs were going to perform in 2020.  The defensive line is the star of the unit.  The depth is apparent.  With Marcus Davenport's return, we should see more outstanding play for the Saints front seven.  Demario Davis is Demario Davis.  Trey Hendrickson has been the surprising star.

OVERALL COACHING

C

To be fair, the coaching has not been poor, but the adjustments and the messages are slowly getting through to the players.  

Let me hear your thoughts and comments below.

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