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Wednesday, 26 October 2011 11:16
Player of the Week Brees, Graham, Sproles Shine For New Orleans Saints
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Drew Brees is the NFL's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Colts...Sean Payton told his team before the Colts game that they were a better team than the one that won the Super Bowl and they should be playing like it... Saints have fallen to No. 4 in the power ratings. soon celebrates its 10th anniversary of covering the NFL...

Drew BreesThrough seven games, Saints TE Jimmy Graham is having one of the best seasons ever for a TE. He has 45 catches for 674 yards  and 5 TDs. Over 16 games, that projects to 103 catches (Tony Gonzalez has record at 102). No wonder Sean Payton said Graham was a steal of the draft two years ago. The Saints got him in the third round.

The Saints' 62-7 victory over the white-flag waving Colts on Sunday was relatively meaningless as far as the playoffs are concerned. Back-to-back victories over Tampa Bay and Atlanta in weeks 9 and 10 will give us a clearer picture if the Saints are the unbeaten Packers' biggest competition in the NFC. Meanwhile, the Saints have a scored a league high 239 points and Drew Brees is using the short pass to help  open up the downfield passing. The Saints have been very effective when they go deep. 

Brees  is completing a league-best 62.5 per cent of his passes 21 yards or more downfield this season. Since the start of the 2008 season, Brees leads all quarterbacks in completions, completion percentage and touchdowns on such passes. The addition of running backs Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles has improved the offense.  Sproles has been an upgrade over Reggie Bush in the screen game.

In 2010, Bush's 36 receiving yards were the fewest on screen passes among running backs with 10 such catches. Through seven weeks, Sproles has almost doubled Bush's full-season total from last season. Sproles has 1,491 total yards this season: Rushing, 289, Receiving, 329, punt returns 121 and kickoff returns, 376. Sproles has made an impact splitting out wide. Entering  Week 7, he was targeted 31 times when lining up as a wide receiver, catching 22 passes for 172 yards. No other running back had more than nine targets or catches when splitting out wide. 

Play-action passing is another key to the offense, with Brees attempting the most such passes this season. While most teams use play action to go over the top, the Saints go even shorter. The average air yards per pass attempt in the NFL this season is 7.3, which jumps to 8.7 on play-action throws. Brees is averaging 6.8 air yards per play-action attempt this season. Brees' favorite play-action target is his tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham leads all NFL tight ends in targets (19), catches (13) and yards (175), and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (3) on play-action passes.

by Ed Staton

(Visit Louisiana Sports for your LSU and Saints jerseys.)

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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