Saints Offensive Line is the Team's Weakest Link

Drew Brees had to pick himself up quite a few times last Sunday - Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After eight games in their NFL season, the New Orleans Saints offensive line has already allowed 20 sacks. Last year, they gave up a grand total of 26 sacks. The disturbing news is what the film breakdown reveals: rather than simple miscommunication, this unit is often overmatched.

There were plenty of reasons why the New Orleans Saints lost their second game of the season against the New York Jets this past Sunday. One of them was the fact that the Saints were on the road and everyone knows that winning on the road in the NFL is a tall task, regardless of the opponent. Another cause was simply because they lost the turnover battle 0-2. A slightly more egregious mistake was certainly when on fourth and inches at the Jets 36-yard line, head coach Sean Payton elected to run a reverse play with a backup tight end that wound up losing eight yards.

What stuck with me after this Saints loss however, is the fact that New Orleans’ offensive line lost most of their one on one (and sometimes two on one) battles against the Jets stout defensive front.

After giving up only 26 sacks all of last season, New Orleans is quite likely to give up at least twice that number in 2013. Drew Brees has already gone down 20 times in the arms of defenders all too eager to face the once-feared, but now floundering Saints protective unit.

An unfortunate sequence of plays that epitomized the miserable day New Orleans’ offensive line had in New Jersey happened in the third quarter. With the Saints trailing 14-23 and having a first down and 10 at the Jets’ 22-yard line, New Orleans proceeded to lose 28 yards in three consecutive plays.

Let’s look at the film breakdown to see how this epic failure unfolded. You might want to skip to the comments section if you’re a squeamish Saints fan.

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First and 10 at the Jets 22-yard line (Holding by Jahri Evans – 10-yard penalty).


On the fringe of the red zone, the Saints opened the play with two stacked receivers on the left and running back Mark Ingram besides quarterback Drew Brees in the backfield. The Jets showed a six-man front at the line of scrimmage.

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From the Coaches Film angle, we can see the disguise of the Jets front. Although they have six-men at the line of scrimmage making it look as though they’re bringing a blitz, they’ll rush only four (red arrows).

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Right after the snap, the Jets disguise gives them an advantage. Saints right tackle Zach Strief (#64, gold arrow) has to worry about the potential of the linebacker blitz in the C gap, thus he only partially helps right guard Jahri Evans (blue arrow) as Jets tackle Sheldon Richardson attacks the B-gap.

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By the time Strief (gold arrow) can fully help Evans (blue arrow), Richardson is already splitting their double-team and barreling towards Brees.

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Evans (blue arrow) has no choice but to take Richardson (red arrow) down. That happened right in front of the referee, who justly calls holding: 10-yard penalty.

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First and 20, Jets 32-yard line (Brees sacked by Muhammad Wilkerson).


On the next play, New Orleans starts with tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Robert Meachem to the left and they motion fullback Jed Collins to the far left side. As in the previous play, New York has four down linemen with two linebackers close enough to the line of scrimmage for a potential blitz.

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From the Coaches Film view, we can see that once again the Jets will only rush four (red arrows). The crucial player in this sequence is defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (blue arrow) who lines up at the three-technique (outside shoulder of the guard) and whose favorite attack move is to shoot the B-gap to get to the quarterback.

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The next sequence will be a delight for Jets fans and a horror show for Saints fans. As the ball is snapped, Wilkerson takes on the double-team of Saints left tackle Charles Brown (gold arrow) and left guard Ben Grubbs (red arrow).

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Before Saints quarterback Drew Brees can think a single thought (pink arrow), Wilkerson (blue arrow) has split Brown and Grubbs and is upon him.

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Brees is sacked by Wilkerson for a 9 yards loss.

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Second and 29, Jets 41-yard line (Brees sacked by Calvin Pace).


With his team going the wrong way, Sean Payton called an interesting next play. The Saints started with a single wideout on the left and an unbalanced line with both tight ends Ben Watson (#82) and Jimmy Graham (#80) at the right end of the line.

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The Coaches Film angle shows the unbalanced line right at the snap. The play design is a play-action, faking a zone run as right guard (#73) Jahri Evans pulls to the left (yellow arrow). The key matchup in this play is linebacker Calvin Pace (red arrow) and tight end Jimmy Graham (blue arrow).

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Graham (blue arrow) who was likely supposed to block then release as the safety valve on the play, whiffs completely on Calvin Pace (red arrow) who gets a free run at quarterback Drew Brees. His ailing ankle probably didn't help the Saints tight end.

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Brees (pink arrow) who realizes that he’s about to get sacked, tries to dip his shoulder to avoid Pace (red arrow). Graham (blue arrow) now completely trails Pace and can only watch the impending wreck.

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Brees, once again, has a close encounter with a Jets defender as he gets sacked by Pace for a seven yard loss. He fumbles the ball in the process.

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Graham, to his credit, recovers the fumble after missing the block that caused the sack.

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On the very next play, on third and 38, New Orleans would gain 13 yards on a pass from Brees to Graham. That led to Garrett Hartley making a 55-yard field goal (his career long), keeping the Saints from coming up empty on that possession. But I’m certain that hardly made any Saints fans feel better about that game. On to the Dallas Cowboys!

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