With 11 games into the season, the New Orleans Saints sit at 4-7 overall, far below the expectations they had for themselves this season.
The combination of poor offseason decisions, a rash of injuries, in-game mistakes and questionable coaching have really sunk their chances at a successful season. That doesn’t mean it’s been all negative, though, as some players have stepped up to contribute.
If you’re a patron for the Saints Happy Hour Podcast, you know one of the perks is that you get a written write up post game of every single player and their graded performance in the game. Through 11 games, here are the five players on offense and defense that have performed at the highest level based on my average weekly player grades.
Chris Olave (3.00 score) – He leads all rookies in receiving yards and he’s quickly become the #1 receiver for the Saints with the injuries to Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry. It’s a little scary to consider how productive he’d be this season if he had been the beneficiary of more consistent quarterback play. He’s had some drops and consistency issues at times, but he has tremendous big play potential and runs great routes. It’s impressive to see how polished he is so soon into his career.
Cesar Ruiz (2.97 score) – The right side of the offensive line has been the best thing about the Saints this year, and Ruiz’s rise to success has been one of the less likely story lines. Guys with talent improve with time, and Ruiz has always had great physical potential, but it’s been really impressive to see the light come on for him.
Ryan Ramczyk (2.91 score) – He’s still playing at a very high level, though there’s been a slight drop off from previous seasons. His performance most recently against TJ Watt and the Steelers was poor, but in general he’s been dominant and the most consistent performer on offense.
Alvin Kamara (2.81 score) – Kamara is still the most critical piece to this offense and the more he is utilized, the stronger the chance the offense has of being successful. There have been games where he’s been neutralized but the Saints have done a better job feeding him the football with Andy Dalton.
Taysom Hill (2.77 score) – The biggest gripe I have with Taysom Hill so far this season is that he hasn’t been used enough. He’s run for 5 touchdowns, caught one and thrown for another. He’s 8 for 13 passing and has done a good job exposing tight boxes when he’s thrown, but his 7.6 yards per carry is astonishing when you consider how much defenses key against that threat. The Saints need to involve him more in the offense.
Honorable mentions: Juwan Johnson, Erik McCoy
Peter Werner (2.96 score) – The Saints miss the recently injured Werner who has developed into a stud linebacker. He’s my highest graded player on the roster currently. He was a fantastic pick and clearly justified the team moving on from Kwon Alexander as he’s been a massive upgrade at that linebacker spot next to DeMario Davis.
DeMario Davis (2.88 score) – He’s perhaps showing slight decline with age but he continues to be excellent. Most notably he already has a career high 6 sacks this season and has really made a big difference with his blitzing abilities.
Kaden Elliss (2.76 score) – As much as the defensive line and secondary have been massive disappointments as far as position groups for the Saints, the linebackers have really stepped up. Elliss’ play has been a surprise this season, most notably when he stepped in as a starter for Werner and played a fantastic games against the Steelers and Rams. He, along with Ruiz, has been one of the most pleasant surprises this season.
Marshon Lattimore (2.73 score) – Speaking of players the Saints miss on defense, Lattimore’s absence has made a struggling secondary even more shaky. The difference he makes being on the field is significant and while he hasn’t played his best football yet this season it’s still been solid. The Saints hope to get him back soon.
Cam Jordan (2.64 score) – With 5.5 sacks, he’s done a solid job getting to the quarterback. He remains a well rounded player that produces, despite his advancing age.
Honorable Mention: Carl Granderson