If I would have told you back in July that coming out of the bye week the New Orleans Saints would be 5-1, everyone would have taken that deal.
Here is my look at the highlight players so far and the ones we expect more out of.
Defensive end Cam Jordan
Jordan was a good football player in 2012. In 2013 he is playing like a Pro Bowl performer and he is a signature player at defensive end in the same vein as Joe Johnson in the early 2000s.
Tight end Jimmy Graham
Graham is rewriting the history books for catches and yardage for tight ends to start a career. This season the former Miami (Fla.) Hurricane has caught 37 passes for 593 yards and six scores. He has emerged as the top tight end in pro football.
Placekicker Garrett Hartley In the past, Hartley has been a bit inconsistent. This year though, he has been money in the bank as a kicker. Hartley has hit some crucial kicks when the Saints offense has gotten bogged down, delivering on 14 of his 16 field goal attempts.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan All Ryan has done is take a defense that set records for the most yardage given up in the history of the NFL and turned it into one of the league’s best units. The Saints are a plus 5 in the giveaway/takeaway ratio, they have registered 20 quarterback sacks and have given up just 103 points in six games. If there was a defensive coordinator of the first quarter award, Rob Ryan would win it.
Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Jenkins Vaccaro has earned his stripes fast in his first season. He plays the game with an aggressive nature and the football smarts you rarely see in a rookie. The former Texas standout is stout in run defense, takes good angles of pursuit and has matched up well in the pass coverage part of the game.
However, no player has benefitted more from the addition of Rob Ryan to the defensive staff than Jenkins. He has played the game aggressively, has become a much better open field tackler and he is a very improved pass defender. Jenkins looks like the type of player everyone hoped he would be when he came out of Ohio State.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis Lewis has played OK, but for what the Saints are paying him you expect more from the veteran defensive back. In recent weeks, opposing teams have picked on the former O.Perry Walker standout. He has been an upgrade from Patrick Robinson, but for the money spent Saints fans want a player that is a dominant pass defender.
Despite age and some injuries, Jabari Greer is still the team’s best one-on-one cover man.
The Running game is stuck in neutral In 2009 and 2011, the Saints ranked sixth both years running the football. This season the Saints have not been able to hang their hats on anything when it comes to rushing the ball. There is no debate that the loss in free agency of tackle Jermon Bushrod, offensive guard Carl Nicks and offensive center Jonathan Goodwin over the past couple of years have had a negative affect on a unit that has struggled to open up rushing lanes.