FIRST QUARTER GRADES
Saints Team Report
By Mike Triplett
New Orleans Times-Picayune
The team did not sign or draft an impact linebacker in the offseason, knowing FS Dwight Smith could make plays there at times. Smith (5-10, 201) has done that in the season's first quarter, playing linebacker in the nickel package while also being one of the team's leading tacklers. He has been a leader on the practice field and in the locker room -- roles that have become more important since the season-ending shoulder injury to SS Jay Bellamy. . . .
The defense loves to get teams in third-and-long situations so it can use Es Darren Howard, Charles Grant, Will Smith and Tony Bryant together to rush the passer. Smith, a second-year player, might turn out to be the most talented of the group.
FIRST QUARTER GRADES: Offense: C+. One of the league's most balanced attacks when it's clicking, it has been inconsistent thus far. Defense: B-. It has allowed touchdowns on all four games' opening drives but just one second half TD. Special teams: D. The usually consistent units have been plagued by turnovers, penalties and injuries. Coaching: B. The staff has maintained a positive atmosphere under difficult circumstances.
RE: FIRST QUARTER GRADES
I think we're being graded on a curve.
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