Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (left) and head coach Sean Payton look on against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. The New Orleans Saints won the game 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints' Grades On Offense And Defense Up To This Point

The New Orleans Saints have had a busy offseason, so let’s go ahead and grade their offense and defense up to this point.

OFFENSE:

Quarterbacks: A+

Let’s be honest…it’s Drew Brees.  There is no need for an explanation.  Veteran Luke McCown was re-signed to back the gunslinger up, but the only playing time he’ll see is during the preseason.

Receiving Corps: B

Losing the experience of Lance Moore (one of Brees’ favorite targets) hurts, but speedy sophomore Kenny Stills and a returning Joe Morgan (missed 2013 due to injury) will help make up for that.  Not to mention, the consistency and big body of Marques Colston has always done the team right.

The Jimmy Graham situation has been ugly, but the Saints will do everything in their power to reach a long-term deal to keep both sides happy.  The best tight end in the game will be on the field for the Black and Gold next season.  The Graham/Colston consistency and Stills/Morgan speed make the Saints’ receiving corps a big threat for opposing teams.

Running Backs: B-

The Saints do not possess an elite runner, but the high grade is simply due to the amount of depth they have at that position.  Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson certainly bring a strong foundation to the backfield, but the departure of Darren Sproles takes away some of that speed.  The Saints weren’t much of a power running team in the past, but the release of Sproles and re-signing of Thomas make you wonder if they will be looking to change their approach up a little heading into the new season.

All three backs are solid, however, the Saints should still look to the draft to insert some speed back into the equation. Going after Kent State RB Dri Archer or Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas in the later rounds would be something to think about.

Offensive Line: B-

Brian de la Puente was one of the more productive lineman as of late, but the re-signing of Zach Strief and emergence of Terron Armstead will help make up for the absence of De la Puente.  Free agent center Jonathan Goodwin made a visit to New Orleans last week; he played with the Saints before signing with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.  Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have the guard spots locked down, but drafting another center and tackle would be a safe move, especially if the Saints end up passing on Goodwin.  Drew Brees has been lucky to have such outstanding protection over the years.

Overall Offense : A

 

DEFENSE:

Linebackers: B-

Junior Galette broke out in 2013 and accumulated 12 sacks; he emerged as one of the premier pass rushers on the team.  Tackling machine Curtis Lofton will be back at it again next year wrapping up ball carriers left and right.  David Hawthorne should be accompanying Lofton on the inside by the time the season kicks off, but the Saints may look to draft another guy to battle for that starting spot.

Then there is Victor Butler; Rob Ryan brought him in from Dallas to get after the quarterback, but he missed the entire 2013 season due to a knee injury.  Will he bounce back in training camp and reclaim a position that was presumed to be his?  The recent re-signings of Parys Haralson and Ramon Humber help keep around a little depth in the unit as well.

D-Line: B-

Releasing Will Smith was the right call; he was old, slow and plagued with injuries.  DE Cam Jordan had an outstanding year in 2013 getting to the quarterback for a team-high 12.5 sacks.  He also managed to make the trip to Hawaii for his first-ever Pro Bowl appearance.  DE Akiem Hicks had a nice year as well, but there is still work to be done.  He has the ability to be a double-digit sack player as well, so we’ll see if Hicks can take it to the next level in 2014.

The big-bodied veteran, Brodrick Bunkley will be fighting for that starting nose tackle spot with the second-year man, John Jenkins; both tackles are legitimate run stoppers.  DE’s Glenn Foster and Tyrunn Walker are there to relieve Jordan and Hicks, but that’s about it.  Snagging another defensive lineman in the draft would be a solid move.

Secondary: A-

The Saints’ secondary is what to watch for in 2014.  The additions of Jairus Byrd and Champ Bailey were crucial after parting ways with Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins and Jabari Greer.  A serious ball hawk, Byrd has emerged as one of the league’s elite free safeties; he and Kenny Vaccaro are bound to be one of the NFL’s most dynamic duos at the top of the field.

Bailey, on the other hand, is old and his health is unpredictable.  However, the experience and leadership he brings to the field and locker room is essential for some of these younger players, especially after the release of so many veterans.  You never know, Champ could bounce back and have a great year for the Saints the way Darren Sharper did.

Furthermore, Keenan Lewis became one of the league’s top shutdown corners in 2013, and he’s only going to get better.  His length and athleticism give him some serious potential.  A three-way battle between Bailey, Corey White and Patrick Robinson is anticipated for the starting spot opposite Lewis, but adding another corner from the draft is likely.

Overall Defense: B

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Tags: 2014 NFL Offseason Cam Jordan Champ Bailey Drew Brees Jairus Byrd New Orleans Saints

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