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TheOak 01-30-2014 07:18 AM

New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
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This is the fourth installment in a 10-part series where we take a glimpse at every New Orleans Saints position group and assign a grade for 2013.


The offensive line was undoubtedly the most inconsistent unit on the team.

The unit has been on the decline after losing players such as guard Carl Nicks (Bucs), center Jonathan Goodwin (49ers) and left tackle Jermon Bushrod (Bears) the past few offseasons. This season it had a new coach in Bret Ingalls after Aaron Kromer left.

Cracks started to show this season. There was no telling what line would show up in any given game.

Drew Brees was sacked a career-high 37 times this season (his previous highs were 26 in 2012 and 27 in 2005 with San Diego).

Two of the line's worst games were on the road at St. Louis and at Carolina, partly due to Charles Browns' final performance at left tackle and Terron Armstead's first start.

However, as Armstead improved, so did the line. It showed solid progression at the end of the season and gave up only three sacks in the playoffs, while allowing the run game to come on strong.

Right tackle Zach Strief and center Brian de la Puente will become free agents in the offseason. It's unlikely the Saints will be bringing both starters back, so they'll likely be looking at this position in the draft.


Strief had a solid season, consistently getting positive grades by Pro Football Focus, and provided reliability on that side of the line.

Strief also is one of the leaders in the locker room. However, he is a free agent and with the Saints at least $12 million over the projected 2014 salary cap of about $126 million, it's possible they might not be able to afford him if another team makes him a big offer.


Evans played hurt most of the season, appearing on the injury report with back, hamstring, him, ankle and knee issues. He missed a start for the first time in his eight-season career, sitting out two games.

By his standard, it was a down season. Yet Evans still earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the fifth time. Even an injured Evans is still one of the best guards in the NFL.


He struggled to begin the season, often getting overpowered by defenders, but had a solid ending to the year. Most important, de la Puente played every snap, giving the Saints one of two (Ben Grubbs was the other) reliable options on the offensive line.

The Saints might have a tough decision to make, as de La Puente will become an unrestricted free agent in March.

The Saints have never been a team to overpay for a center and can't afford to do so given their cap situation.

It will be a toss-up as to whether they want to bring him back or move on.


Grubbs had an interesting season. He earned his second Pro Bowl berth, but was inconsistent early on, particularly in his run blocking. But like most of the line, he improved down the stretch.

Grubbs' cap number jumps from $4.3 million to $9.1 million next season. He restructed his contract last offseason, but is still owed a massive amount of money that some isn't justified.

However, he and Evans will be back to provide a veteran presence on the interior of the line.


The Saints might have found their starting left tackle for many years to come.

Armstead played only on special teams for 15 games. His first start was an extremely rocky outing at the Carolina Panthers. But he improved with every game.

Armstead, a third-round draft selection out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is tall and athletic at 6 feet 5 and 304 pounds. The young tackle has a bright future.


Brown needed to prove himself as a first-time starter in a contract year. He likely will be looking elsewhere this offseason after the emergence of Armstead.

Brown's main concern was staying healthy. He did that, but a team-high 12 penalties and a terrible showing against the Rams got him permanently benched.

Although Brown was a serviceable left tackle in the latter half of the season, the team upgraded when switching to Armstead.


Lelito, an undrafted free agent, didn't prove much in his first start in place of Evans against Arizona. He allowed at least three sacks, was injured, and looked overwhelmed.

But the undrafted rookie shined in his second chance against the Falcons nine weeks later.

Playing on only one day of practice after flying home to bury his grandmother, an emotional Lelito had a complete turnaround, getting the game ball for his efforts at Atlanta in a Thursday night game.

He could have a shot at a significant role next season.


Harris still hasn't gotten much of a chance to show what he can do. As Strief's primary backup, he's started two games the past two seasons (one in 2012, another this season). His 2012 season ended abruptly after he broke his fibula.

Harris played in all 16 games this season, mostly on special teams. Going into his third season, he might be a candidate to replace Strief if the Saints allow the veteran to walk in free agency.

Grade: C-

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New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line |

halloween 65 01-30-2014 08:55 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
Draft the best Center that we can get in the 2nd round. I also don't think Strief will get a big contract and will need replaced, with any luck his replacement may already be here.

Danno 01-30-2014 08:59 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line

Originally Posted by halloween 65 (Post 576277)
Draft the best Center that we can get in the 2nd round. I also don't think Strief will get a big contract and will need replaced, with any luck his replacement may already be here.

I'd love to draft a Center, but it's not wise to reach for one.

I think Center will be addressed in free-agency, as Loomis always does.

hagan714 01-30-2014 09:17 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
Ol has shown us enough to have hope. cap issues are a killer and we need to upgrade the depth across the board. saints have tried in vein over the years in the draft and none have pained out really. time to start over most of the reserve OL are FA

alleycat_126 01-30-2014 10:14 AM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
I value our ability to find the oline jems, it's never gonna be a 100% smash every time, but we have great success finding o line help in the later rounds of the draft. C and OT should be the priorities later in the draft unless a cant miss name drops to us in the early stages

Rugby Saint II 01-30-2014 02:37 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
dlp is no longer serviceable and Strief doesn't run block very well because he is hobbled. Both of these positions need to be addressed in the off season. Maybe one free agent and one draft pick will fix this problem.(although we really can't afford a high priced free agent)
Oh yeah, reevaluate our O-line coach. :brood:

triman 01-31-2014 05:03 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
Alex Mack FA draft Taylor Lewan and Zach Martin problems solved. Armstead start at RT Lewan at LT ,Martin replaces GRUBBS at Guard. Give Striefs money to Alex Mack. Upgrades all three OL positions.

Marlboro Man 02-01-2014 08:54 PM

Re: New Orleans Saints positional analysis: offensive line
Sadly, I think it's time to cut ties with some of the fan favorites this year. We need the cap space and we need the improvement. I think we could get either the C for CSU or CU in the 2nd round and get a tall, fast, CB in the first even trading down and getting at least another pick. In the 3rd, we could get a WR and ILB or OLB with our extra pick for trading down.

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