Pro Football Focus: Best and worst Saints player grades from Week 9

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The New Orleans Saints were so, so close to pulling off a comeback against the annoyingly competent Atlanta Falcons. Strong performances from defensive end Marcus Davenport and quarterback Trevor Siemian fueled that effort — but mistakes from defensive backs Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, and Marcus Williams undercut them, and ultimately cost the game.

All of that was reflected in the latest player grades from Pro Football Focus. Sure, there are some eyebrow-raising issues here (which we’ll get to) but they did identify some of the team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses this week. Let’s dig in:

Top 5 Player Grades on Offense

The high grade for Stills is really puzzling. He only caught two of the five passes sent his way for 30 receiving yards, though he did score a critical last-minute touchdown to give the Saints a one-point lead. But he struggled to gain any separation throughout the game or compete for contested catches — the defender covering him had a chance to fight for all but one target. Maybe he played better when the ball didn’t go his way.

But the positive rating for Siemian rings true. He threw with accuracy all afternoon, repeatedly hitting his receivers in their hands only for them to fail to secure a catch. There were things he could have done better in running the offense more smoothly and getting his teammates lined up more quickly, but he wasn’t a reason they lost this game.

Bottom 5 Player Grades on Offense

  • RB Alvin Kamara, 61.3

  • RG Calvin Throckmorton 58.8

  • WR Kevin White, 55.3

  • C Erik McCoy, 54.5

  • WR Marquez Callaway, 53.1

Callaway had the second-most snaps of all receivers (60 against Tre’Quan Smith’s 61) but his grade was the lowest on offense. That’s unacceptable. He had a really strong summer and it just hasn’t translated to the regular season. He’s struggled to separate, to box out defenders on contested throws, and to make plays when it’s needed most. He shouldn’t be in such a prominent role but the Saints just don’t have better options.

The Falcons defended Kamara well. He only had one play of 15-plus yards (a 19-yard reception) and his 3.8 yards per carry isn’t something worth writing home about. He’s the team’s best player but Atlanta had enough answers for him on Sunday.

Top 5 Player Grades on Defense

  • DE Marcus Davenport, 90.8

  • DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson, 86.3

  • LB Kaden Elliss, 80.2

  • LB Pete Werner, 79.8

  • DE Cameron Jordan, 72.7

Davenport played his best football late in the fourth quarter, ending one Falcons drive with a sack and forcing a fumble in scoring position on the next possession — it’s just a shame that none of his teammates were aware enough to recover the ball. He’s been a force for the Saints when healthy. Hopefully he keeps it up.

Gardner-Johnson showed stellar play recognition early on a great tackle for loss and he had some nice moments in coverage, but the foot injury that knocked him out for the game is really discouraging. He’s had an up-and-down third year in the NFL but the team is still better with him in the lineup.

Bottom 5 Player Grades on Defense

Having three of your top four defensive backs ranked this low does a lot to explain why the Saints lost this game. Lattimore was dusted by Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts on an early incompletion and didn’t adjust to the rookie’s speed, continuing to try to press and jam his bigger opponent at the line — to his detriment. He hasn’t looked right in a couple weeks now.

Adebo has been victimized in some big spots lately but would starting Roby ahead of him be the right move? Neither of them have played really well in recent weeks and there’s an argument for keeping the rookie in a more prominent role so he can learn on the job. But you’d like to see what you’ve got in Roby long-term, too. It’s a tough situation to resolve.

Also, Alexander had a rough day trying to cover Cordarrelle Patterson. He led the team with 74 receiving yards allowed on five receptions. He’s been someone the Saints have relied on often thanks to his unique athleticism, but too often he was out of position or out of phase when the ball was in the air.

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