Diagnosing What Has Gone Wrong
At the moment, the Saints rank 4th and 16th in run-defense grade and pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus, respectively. Ideally, a pass rush led by Cameron Jordan and a deep defensive line would be amongst the league’s best, but, overall, it is clear that it’s been the team’s pass coverage that has let them down.
At the moment, New Orleans’ 46.9 coverage grade ranks fifth-worst in the NFL. Sure, they have had to play some talented offenses, but that hasn’t been the case recently.
The Raiders and Panthers, for example, run offenses that don’t stretch the ball vertically a lot, which should hide the secondary’s weaknesses when it comes to giving up big plays, while they got to play the Bucs and Lions at fortunate times- when they were not full healthy.
As for the Chargers, they have just the 27th-graded offense, yet the Saints allowed 27 points with ease.
Outside of Janoris Jenkins and Alex Anzalone, every member of the back seven is at fault. Here are their Pro Football Focus coverage grades:
- CB Janoris Jenkins: 70.6
- LB Alex Anzalone: 67.6
- SCB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: 62.9
- LB Demario Davis: 56.1
- S Marcus Williams: 54.9
- CB Marshon Lattimore: 48.6
- S Malcolm Jenkins: 47.9
- CB/S PJ Williams 34.7
That is certainly not what the Saints were hoping for coming into the season. Luckily, Janoris Jenkins being back healthy gives them sort of stability, but outside of that, it is hard to be impressed with the performance of any of their key back-seven players.
For comparison, here is each of these player’s coverage grade last year:
- CB Janoris Jenkins: 68.6
- LB Alex Anzalone: 67.8
- SCB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: 66.7
- LB Demario Davis: 88.3
- S Marcus Williams: 89.5
- CB Marshon Lattimore: 65.7
- S Malcolm Jenkins: 67.9
- CB/S PJ Williams: 47.6
You read that right; outside ofJanoris Jenkins and Anzalone, EVERY key member of the team’s back-seven has played significantly worse than they did last season. Had they had to run through a gauntlet of difficult offenses, then this may be explainable.
Yet, even when they played the Packers, they did not have to face star receiver Davante Adams!
Janoris Jenkins, Anzalone, Gardner-Johnson, and Williams (who should not be receiving as much playing time as he is) have all played near where they were expected to heading into the season.
Davis, Williams, Lattimore, and Malcolm Jenkins, on the other hand, have performed poorly enough to be legitimately concerned. Let us take a closer look at each of their respective performances so far.