This is the second part of my evaluation of the guys in the trenches for the New Orleans game. I focus on the defense in this review; you can read the offensive evaluation, here.
As Coach Parcells said after the game, it's hard to evaluate the first team defense because they were on the field for so few plays in the first half. But I'm giving it a shot anyway. Also, there was some consternation about the lack of sacks in this game compared to the havoc created in Seattle last week. There is one thing that helps explain this; the Saints rarely tested Dallas on deep or intermediate routes. Many of their passing plays were flares to the backs, short underneath stuff and other various dink-and-dunks. So the QB's weren't holding the ball for very long negating the sack opportunities.
Outside of that, there's very little to complain about in the first team defenses effort. It took New Orleans three series just to get a first down. The few times they did manage to beat us for good yardage, it was usually a case of the defense being overly aggressive.
On to the individual evaluations.
LDE - Marcus Spears: Spears first game back since his injury was solid, but not spectacular. He did hold up his end of the line and rarely gave ground, just as a 3-4 DE is taught to do. He did manage to get a good rush that forced an errant pass during a blitz, but overall it was just good to see him back on the field.
NT - Jason Ferguson: Ferguson turned in his second good performance in a row, anchoring the line and taking on double-teams, freeing the LB's up for the tackles. He did have one play where he got pushed out of the middle and it wasn't a double team, but that was the exception. On a couple of runs he totally clogged the middle, setting up his teammates to finish the play.
RDE - Chris Canty: It was a quiet game for Canty, not in the mold of last week's game against Seattle, but he did do his job and didn't expose the edges on running plays. He got good penetration on a running play that forced it outside for Ware to clean up. Same as Spears, he did exactly what is required from the ends in this defense.
LOLB - Greg Ellis: Ellis continues his good work in his transition to LB, and was very active in the game. He made an excellent read of pass on a play-action pass and covered McAllister out to the sideline and made a sure tackle to keep it to a short gain. He got a good rush on another play, hurrying the throw, and on another play he peeled off from a pass rush (in a 4-man front) to run down Reggie Bush for the tackle after a good gain. He had two bad plays; he dropped an easy INT that probably would've been a TD and he got caught inside on an outside run, exposing the edge for a good Saints gain. But overall, he continues to show great progress in his move to OLB.
ROLB - DeMarcus Ware: Ware turned a magnificent performance. Lining up in a 4-man front, he penetrated into the backfield, forcing the play wide and Anthony Henry made the tackle for a loss. He bull-rushed the LT backwards into Drew Brees, forcing him to throw a bad pass that should've been intercepted. He dropped into coverage and blanketed a WR, although the pass was thrown complete to a different receiver. Ware fought off a block along the line and got outside quick enough to force Reggie Bush out-of-bounds for no gain, and then he lined up in coverage with Bush who was in the slot, and made the tackle after Bush caught the swing pass for no gain. The only mistake I saw him make was one play in coverage when he followed the receiver too far inside, instead of turning him over to the ILB, and left the flats exposed on his side.
LDE - Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman: Ratliff didn't get in until later in the game but still made a few plays worthy of note. He got some pressure on the QB on two plays and fought through a couple of blocks to run down the RB for a short gain. Kenyon Coleman had one play where he got some penetration and he held up against the run fairly well.
NT - Pepper Johnson, Montavious Stanley: Neither player did much of note in the game. Johnson had a couple of plays where he did a nice job of clogging up the middle while others made the tackle for no gain, and he fought through a block to make a tackle on another play. But he did get blown up on a short-yardage play on one occasion. Stanley had one play where he got pushed out of the middle for a good gain by the Saints.
RDE - Jason Hatcher: Hatcher was a non-factor in the game, only once getting a good rush on the QB. He did manage a tackle but is still showing that for all his raw potential, he's just a rookie.
LOLB - Al Singleton: Another solid performance from veteran Al Singleton. He managed to get a few tackles, got some late pressure on the QB on one occasion and recovered a Saints fumble at the Dallas goal line. He got caught being too aggressive on a play-action pass, was late back into coverage and the Saints took advantage.
ROLB - Kevin Burnett: Not quite as active as he was last week, he did have one good rush where he got pressure on the QB, but was caught way to deep in pass coverage to his side on another play and the Saints capitalized for a nice gain.
After last week's performance Junior Glymph didn't get much accomplished this week and Rocky Boiman returned to the line-up wearing a cast but also didn't accomplish much.
The inside LB's, Bradie James and Akin Ayodele did a good job of filling the holes on the line during running plays. But both bit hard on a play-action pass that left Joe Horn wide-open, a case of being too aggressive. Bobby Carpenter took a bad angle on a pass play and allowed the back to get free for a lot more yardage, and Pat Watkins over-ran the play on a Reggie Bush run. It's good to be aggressive on defense, but you need to be careful about play-action fakes and over-running the play.
Ryan Fowler caused a fumble and Abram Elam had a nice TD-saving tackle (although the Saints scored on the next play), he also broke up a pass and had 3 tackles. Shaun Suisham had a good day kicking and Tyler Fredrickson booted a 49-yard FG that gave us a look on Parcells face that was priceless.