this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; State of the position All three starting jobs appear to be set in stone heading into training camp, with perennial All-Pro Jahri Evans at right guard, Ben Grubbs at left guard and Brian de la Puente at center. Like the ...
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|07-25-2013, 04:54 PM||#1|
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State of the position
All three starting jobs appear to be set in stone heading into training camp, with perennial All-Pro Jahri Evans at right guard, Ben Grubbs at left guard and Brian de la Puente at center. Like the rest of the New Orleans Saints offense, all three of them had down years in 2012 compared to their lofty standards. But all three should still be considered among the team's top assets.
Everyone else at the interior line positions might be fighting for just one spot on the 53-man roster as backup guard/center. Third-year veteran Eric Olsen earned that duty last summer and seemed to be a decent fit in the role when called upon. But the Saints are high on the potential of second-year pro Andrew Tiller, who spent last year on injured reserve with a torn triceps. So Tiller's potential could vault him ahead in that competition.
Third-year pro Ricky Henry is a sleeper candidate to make the roster now that he's in his second year with the Saints. He spent the last three weeks on the 53-man roster last year after starting out on the practice squad.
Young backups Elliott Mealer, Tim Lelito, Jeremiah Warren are likely battling for spots on this year's practice squad, barring injuries.
Unofficial depth chart
No. Player Ht. Wt. Age Exp. College
73 Jahri Evans 6-4 318 29 8 Bloomsburg
66 Ben Grubbs 6-3 310 29 7 Auburn
67 Andrew Tiller 6-5 326 24 1 Syracuse
65 Ricky Henry 6-4 310 25 3 Nebraska
68 Tim Lelito 6-4 315 24 R Grand Valley State
63 Jeremiah Warren 6-4 320 25 1 South Florida
60 Brian de la Puente 6-3 306 28 4 California
69 Eric Olsen 6-3 305 25 3 Notre Dame
61 Elliott Mealer 6-5 308 24 R Michigan
This is yet another area where the Saints simply need to execute better than they did last year. They clearly have a ton of talent in the middle of their offensive line, having invested mega-millions in guards Evans and Grubbs. But they need to get more bang for their buck than they did in 2012.
The run game was non-existent for the first half of last season. Everyone deserved their share of the blame, from the coaches to the running backs to the receivers and tight ends blocking downfield. But it was surprising that the Saints failed to consistently open holes up the middle with so much talent at the guard position. The pass protection up the middle was also inconsistent.
Chances are, the return of coach Sean Payton and the return to an overall "comfort zone" on offense will lead to improved play across the board. We know how good Evans and de la Puente can be, since they were part of the greatest offensive performance in NFL history in 2011. Evans is widely regarded as one of the best two or three guards in the league because of his versatility. And the powerfully-built Grubbs was a Pro Bowler with the Baltimore Ravens before he signed with the Saints last year.
The battle for backup jobs will be interesting since there might be only one of them available. Tiller needs to prove he's as good as Olsen already as both a center and a guard if he wants to unseat the more experienced veteran. But that's definitely possible.
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