Saints Offensive Line Progression and Regression

Can the Saints finally get the running game going against the Bears? - Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

While the Saints' pass protection has come along nicely, their run blocking has been nothing short of terrible.

Protecting Drew Brees is and always will be the number one priority of the Saints' offensive line. He's undoubtedly the most important part of the offense, so pass protection naturally takes precedence over run blocking for the big men up front.

That being said, a strong run game has been a pivotal part of the most successful Saints' teams of the Brees/Payton era (see 2009 and 2011 seasons). 2010 was a perfect example of this when the Saints', who's backfield was depleted with injuries, were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round when they were completely incapable of running the ball. Drew Brees will win many games with his arm, but when a defense knows you are going to pass it's only a matter of time until they figure out how to stop it.

With a tough Bears defense next on the schedule, the Saints will have to drastically improve their overall play along the offensive line. Luckily, pass blocking shouldn't be too much of an issue. While Brees is getting hit a bit more than you would like, there are plenty of teams that would love to have the type of pass protection the Saints have. Their run blocking, however, has been abysmal as the table below illustrates. As bad as they were in weeks 1-3, they were even worse this past Monday against the Dolphins:

Weeks 1-3 Combined Week 4
Pass Block Run Block Pass Block Run Block
Brown 0.1 -1.2 -1.5 -1.4
Grubbs 3.8 0.3 0.8 -1.4
De La Puente 0.7 -1.2 1.1 -0.1
Evans/Lelito -6.7 -7.2 1.3 -2.9
Strief 6.6 2.3 1.5 -0.9
Avg./Game 1.5 -2.3 Game Total 3.2 -6.7

In addition to the fourth worst pass rushing grade, the Bears have PFF's fifth lowest run defense grade as a team, so hopefully the Saints can get something going in Week 5. Jahri Evans is clearly still not 100%, and even though his pass blocking looks good, he isn't getting any kind of push against the run. Not that Evans is the only one at fault here, as Ben Grubbs, Brian De La Puente and Charles Brown haven't been stellar in run blocking either, but Evans is the one guy you expect lead the way.

Regardless, the Saints need to get some kind of run game going to keep defenses honest, set up play action, and help close out games when they have the lead. Let's hope this is the game where they turn it around.

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