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Saints O-line had bumps, bruises to overcome, but coach Dan Roushar's methods set it up for success

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Old 01-11-2019, 04:51 PM   #1
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Old 01-11-2019, 04:53 PM   #2
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Re: Saints O-line had bumps, bruises to overcome, but coach Dan Roushar's methods set it up for success

BY NICK UNDERHILL | nunderhill@theadvocate.com Jan 11, 2019 - 4:20 pm

Terron Armstead and Larry Warford started a conversation during training camp that hasn’t concluded.

At some point in August, during one of the sweltering practices at the team’s facility on Airline Drive, the two decided their offensive line had an inordinate amount of talent. That has been a hallmark of the Saints’ offensive lines in recent seasons, but this year’s team felt different.

“The guys we have on the back end, practice squad, everything – we have an impressive group,” Terron Armstead said. “Last year was a lot of the same. Senio (Kelemete) was a guy who could come in and play Z receiver if you needed him to. But no, top to bottom, I would say we’re the best for sure.”

The talent, top to bottom, has been tested in ways that it wasn’t in other seasons, and its ability to hold up and get and stay healthy throughout the playoffs might be what determines how far this team goes.

Right now, it looks positive. Armstead (pectoral), offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod (hamstring), guard Andrus Peat (hand) and guard Larry Warford (knee) are all expected to play this week against the Eagles. It would make the first time the whole offensive line has been healthy since Week 9.

If the group can hold up, the line will once again be the strength of the offense. If not, then the Saints will have to figure things out.

With all the injuries, the depth has already been tested this season. New Orleans spent the last few weeks of the year, save for a half against Pittsburgh, playing without Armstead and Bushrod, which forced the team to use Andrus Peat at tackle and play rookie seventh-round pick Will Clapp at guard.

The results were mixed. But the line never felt like a major liability in the two games where Clapp played significant snaps due to the line being down a starter and his primary backup, which is saying something.

Losing a second-team All-Pro like Armstead for multiple games is supposed to have a more significant impact, but New Orleans found a way to stay alive and made people forget about the injuries at times. Who was fretting Armstead's absence when the Saints beat Philadelphia earlier this year once the game got underway?

And no one inside the building has been surprised by any of these things. Where the talent on this line stacks up with other teams is for someone else to decide, but the ability to plug and play multiple players, and at least get by if not thrive, is the hallmark of Dan Roushar’s offensive lines.

“What he wants out of us, what he demands out of us, since the day I’ve gotten here he has a clear message,” Bushrod said. “When you have starters and your backups that are buying into the things that he’s saying, he’s definitely doing something good.”

One of the reasons, Roushar has done so well getting his players to buy into his message is that he allows them to have a voice. Where many coaches lay out a vision and expect their players to execute it in a specific and exact manner, the New Orleans offensive line coach takes a different approach.

He wants to know what his players think about different things. He wants opinions and feedback on an opponent or a particular technique. He might not accept all suggestions, but he’s willing to consider them and often will allow a player to try something their way to see if it works better.

The fact is, even though he’s a teacher, Roushar is still a student of the game and is willing to learn from all sources.

“When you get players that come from a different place, Max Unger, Larry Warford, that have come into the room, they have maybe experienced something a little different, a different technique, a fundamental, a movement, an angle of a pass set,” Roushar said. “You watch these things and then have a true conversation, maybe talk about a couple of things, and if a guy is doing it as well as he can, as effectively as he can and it’s productive, we can certainly learn from a player.”

Due to this approach, the players feel like each week is more a cohesive “problem-solving exercise” than a mandate of how to get things done. Now, of course, Roushar and assistant offensive line coach Brendan Nugent have a core set of principles and aren’t afraid to veto an idea and tell the players to get back on script.

Coach Sean Payton recently joked there are times when the coaching staff takes the suggestion box and throws it in the lake, but it sounds like it would take a lot for the offensive line to reach that point.

“I think he allows for the group to grow and doesn’t have too much input, but also doesn’t say too little,” Warford said. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, I’m the coach. You’re below me. You do this no matter what.’ That’s not his deal. He takes into account our skill sets.”

Roushar also credits the success of the group to two other things. One of them is attention the team spends on fundamentals and never allowing them to lapse. He calls the approach “football school,” and it starts during the summer and never lets up.

The other is having Nugent around to help him coach the line. Armstead thinks so much of Nugent that he expects him to get hired by another team to serve as an offensive line coach sooner than later, and Mark Ingram credited him for helping the running game excel.

Nugent is known to be one of the last guys in the building at night, often sticking around to break down more film after all the other coaches have already left. That’s why Roushar says that his assistant is “every bit as vocal and valuable as I am.” Having that two-headed approach allows the offensive line to get more work in each day.

“Typically, he works with half of the line; I’ll work with the other half of the line, sometimes right side and sometimes left side, and sometimes inside, sometimes outside,” Roushar said. “It’s not uncommon, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, you have the video today. I want them to hear your voice for a little bit and not mine.’ He’s an outstanding coach.”

The Saints have two of those coaches now, and because of them, regardless of who plays this weekend, New Orleans will have confidence in the line. There might be some problem solving involved, but the group expects to figure it out.

Will we ever learn? Never let it come down to the officiating...
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Old 01-12-2019, 09:43 AM   #3
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Re: Saints O-line had bumps, bruises to overcome, but coach Dan Roushar's methods set it up for success

Nice mentioning Senio
Hated losing him
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Old 01-12-2019, 01:28 PM   #4
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Re: Saints O-line had bumps, bruises to overcome, but coach Dan Roushar's methods set it up for success

Man oh man.... The losing teams sitting at home are probably salivating over all of our coaches. However, that is to be expected when you're a winner. Just keep winning baby!
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