It’s been a while since I’ve done this. Let’s have some fun this season.
Every week this season, I’ll be going through each position group and issue some letter grades to each position group. And after a great 31-7 victory for the Syracuse Orange over Louisville this weekend, you’re probably expecting the letter grades to be very good.
Let’s dive right in.
It’s no secret we love Pro Football Focus. If you told any of us that Garrett Shrader would have the highest overall grade among Power Five quarterbacks in week one, would you have believed that?
That was impressive from Sharder, who showcased retooled mechanics resulting in harder and more accurate throws. His decision-making outside of the pocket was great and it seems like Robert Anae’s system and Jason Beck’s coaching has done wonders to revitalize Syracuse’s signal caller. The bar has been set.
Running backs: A
The Heisman campaign is well and truly underway. Tucker did what he does best on the ground - cut and physically gain yards after first contact. That’s not the reason he earns the grade, however. That goes to his prowess in the passing game. We all knew that Tucker would be a great receiver, but now under the new system he is flourishing. The routes he ran were simple but put him in the best position to make a play, which is all Syracuse needs from its star player.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-
This grade should be higher, and the wideouts will tell that to you themselves. Another benefactor of the new system, we saw receivers run a variety of routes and give Shrader multiple options to hit. That helped with Sharder generally making quicker and more decisive decisions. However, the drops were not great. The only excuse I might allow the wide receivers to have is the velocity of the passes that Shrader had, but pretty much all of the balls that were dropped were on target.
Offensive Line: D+
Honestly, the blocking itself wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Once play started, it seemed like Shrader had time and Tucker had holes. However, this grade gets dragged down by all the penalties. Double-digit false starts is unacceptable and the Orange are lucky that more drives weren’t killed by the jumping all over the line. This is the only downside of the new offensive system, as the linemen were clearly getting used to all the pre-snap motion and new cadences that needed to be implemented because of that. The good thing is that you know Mike Schmidt is going to address that this week.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line performed much better than expected. All the starters (and Steve Linton, because he’s essentially Cody Roscoe this year) did great and played a part in forcing Malik Cunningham out of the pocket. For all the inexperience with only Linton and Caleb Okechukwu getting meaningful playing time in the past, this sure didn’t look like a green group. The twos did well later in the game, but it was a little rough in the first half, where Louisville found a little bit of momentum. That’s what brings the grade down.
Well pretty much everyone knew that this group was going to be solid, and they didn’t disappoint. The linebackers did a great job of disguising their roles during each play, whether they were blitzing or dropping back. And when the linebackers did rush, it looked terrifying for the Louisville offensive line. Even when Stefon Thompson went down, Derek McDonald came in and picked up an interception as well. He didn’t provide the same impact in the pass rush, but he was solid in coverage, which is pretty much all Syracuse can ask for.
Defensive Backs: A
That was an excellent game from the defensive backs. On almost every pass, the corners and safeties were draped all over the Cardinal receivers. The tackling as well was incredibly solid, which has been a problem in the past with ball carriers shedding tackles from the secondary. The coverage was tight all game long. Not much more needs to be said.
Special Teams: B+
Your new favorite player is Max Von Marburg. He did well in his limited showings, pinning Louisville inside the 20 twice on three punts. Trebor Pena had some decent returns as well. The kickoff coverage wasn’t the best as Jahwar Jordan had some pretty decent returns, but that got better as the game went on. It didn’t help that almost every kickoff barely didn’t touch the end zone. But already a much better showing from the special teams than from last season.
What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments below.