Kristian: Grading the Saints through the first four games
Coaches and players break down the season into four quarters. Through the first quarter of the season, the Saints are 4 and 0, and look as though they’re getting incrementally better each week. After two nail-biters to open the season the Saints have won by 24 and 21 points. So look at the first four games as sort of a midterm progress report:
Offense: The Saints are starting to really heat up, but early struggles in the red zone have left some points on the board. Nonetheless, New Orleans is averaging 27 points per game with 419 yards of total offense, good enough for 4th best in the NFL. The Saints are controlling the ball, averaging 34 minutes in time of possession per contest. 12 sacks allowed and 81 yards per game rushing takes the shine off the offense.
Offense’s grade: B
Defense: I figured the defense would be much improved, but I didn’t think they would get this kind of production this fast from Rob Ryan. New Orleans is plus 5 in the turnover ratio. They’ve bagged 12 QB sacks while allowing 13.8 points per game, and rank 5th in the NFL against the pass (192.2) and 6th in total D (304.5). 3rd down defense for the Saints has been outstanding; opponents are 16 of 46.
Defense’s grade: A
Special teams: The Saints haven’t had a big return on kick offs or punts, but also haven’t allowed one either. Thomas Morstead’s powerful leg has limited opposing teams return teams on punts and kick offs. Garret Hartley has been pretty solid connecting on all but two field goals this season. His two misses have come from 40 yards and beyond. Darren Sproles is averaging a solid 9.3 yards per return on punts, and 20.5 on kick offs.
Special Teams grade: B-
Coaching: It’s pretty evident the impact the return of Sean Payton is having on the Saints. New Orleans is a much more disciplined team than they were a year ago in his absence. Payton knows how to get his team prepared. He’s a masterful in-game manager, and it played out more so in weeks 1 and 2 with close victories over Atlanta and Tampa. Rob Ryan has done some of his best work, getting great results from a very young defense.
Coaching grade: A+