Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Morning report: Saints' worst starter?
By Mike Triplett
Pro Football Focus broke down its picks for the "worst players on the NFL's best teams" -- more specifically, the weakest link in the starting lineup of the league's top contenders. For the Saints, they went with inside linebacker Curtis Lofton, harping on the fact that they have him credited for 14 missed tackles (tied for the league lead at his position).
My first instinct was to disagree with the choice. Although I don’t think Lofton is having a standout season, I think he's been solid. He leads the Saints with 67 tackles. He's a captain and signal-caller who has played almost every snap for an immensely successful defense. And he certainly hasn’t stood out for costing the Saints any games.
Obviously the run defense struggled last week in a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets. But while reviewing the tape of that game, I actually noted that Lofton might have had one of his best performances of the season. I don’t blame Lofton for any of Chris Ivory’s three breakaway runs. Although it looked bad when Ivory broke through Lofton’s attempted arm tackle on his 52-yard run in the second quarter, Lofton was being blocked on that play by pulling guard Brian Winters and got about as close as he could to stopping Ivory.
The problem with sticking up for Lofton, however, is trying to come up with an alternative. No other defensive starter is struggling this season.
I’d probably point to the Saints’ interior offensive linemen. Center Brian de la Puente and guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans have been too inconsistent in both their run blocking and pass protection. None of them have been "weaknesses"; although quarterback Drew Brees has taken more hits than usual, he's still been comfortable enough in the pocket to put up more monster numbers. But those big men up front certainly aren’t playing up to their usual lofty standard.
The Football Outsiders produced a similar article, identifying weak areas for top contenders. They went with the Saints’ rushing offense, and I strongly agree with that.