ESPN's Scouts Inc. has been ranking all 32 NFL teams by unit. Over the next few days, I will be discussing (mocking) these rankings, ESPN and Scouts, Inc, starting with the unheralded (until now) offensive line rankings today. First, a brief overview of how the Saints fared in the various rankings. These numbers are all of 32 teams, lower numbers being better.
- QB: 3
- RB: 6
- WR: 12
- TE: 24
- OL: 8
- Average Unit Rank:10.6
- Average Unit Rank Assuming Multiple WRs: 7.25
The last two numbers are my creation: Average Unit Rank is just that, the average of the five preceding numbers. Clearly the Saints abysmal TE rank drags the offense down. Knowing this, and knowing that the Saints offense is not as reliant on the tight end as teams like San Diego, I reasonably assumed that there would be a substantial number of plays where the Saints would forego using a tight end completely. Average Unit Rank Assuming Multiple WRs accounts for those plays where the Saints use three-to-five receivers and no tight ends.
Offensive linemen don't get enough credit. Every play hinges on the success of five largely anonymous behemoths, acting as a wall so that the smaller waterbugs can reap all of the accolades. Often the line will do a great job, only to have somebody like Aaron Brooks come along and screw the pooch.
Scouts Inc. says the following about the Saints offensive line:
The Saints had the best passing offense in the NFL at better than 281 yards per game, thanks in large part to the fact that they gave up just 23 sacks in 2006. However, they are well below average in the rushing department at just 3.7 yards per carry. Left tackle Jammal Brown is becoming a quality tackle entering his third year, and fifth-year right tackle Jon Stinchcomb gives the Saints a very good pair of bookends. Guards Jahri Evans and Jamar Nesbit and center Jeff Faine are more than adequate but hardly Pro Bowl-caliber, though as a group they do a respectable job of combining strength and athleticism to protect quarterback Drew Brees, who is not the most mobile quarterback in the league. They could stand to add some more power up front to give them stronger run blocking.
Now, far be it for me to challenge advanced metrics like Yards Per Carry and Sacks, but using information gleaned from the Football Outsiders, I was able to discuss the offensive line's contribution to the Saints' running game. In terms of the Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards, an average running back would be expected to gain 4.37 yards-per-carry behind the Saints' line. The fact that the Saints only averaged 3.7 (the Outsiders say 3.99) yards-per-carry reflected more on the runners than the line.
As far as the 23 sacks go, five came in this game, against Jamie Martin, with a team of backups. Eighteen sacks allowed in fifteen games is pretty remarkable. Enough said there (apparently there is no limit to my hypocrisy).
The point of this is that while Scouts Inc ranks the Saints line as 8th in the league, they could realistically be ranked much higher. Although, given where they were one year ago, 8th is pretty remarkable itself.
Viva la revolucion.