As I mentioned in the introduction to my Top 25 Saints' players I am constructing this list as if every currently healthy player will remain healthy for the season, which is important to keep in mind for my No. 21 ranking of Charles Brown. I'm entirely aware that the oft-injured Brown may very well get hurt at some point. But it's also important to remember that this list is constructed based on how much of a positive impact I expect the players to have while they're on the field. Brown performed admirably in limited time in 2012, and although he only managed one full start it was a very respectable performance against the Saints' biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons.
Many Saints' fans were worried this off-season when the Chicago Bears swooped in and signed Jermon Bushrod, who started 62 games at left tackle during his tenure with the Saints. With the two-time Pro Bowler gone, they worried that Drew Brees's blind side should be a major cause for concern. But should it be? Brown held up very well in pass protection in limited time in 2012, and although Jason Smith has not lived up to his draft status, he performed well in limited 2012 action as well. Throw in the Saints' 2013 third round pick, Terron Armstead, and you have a great competition going on. Here's a table that compares the 2012 performances of Bushrod, Brown, and Smith in pass protection:
(PBE = pass blocking efficiency, a weighted formula that holds an increased value for sacks. Stats acquired from Pro Football Focus signature statistics.)
So as you can see, Bushrod wasn't anything special in pass protection in 2012 (though I will admit he was very good in 2011). In Brown's lone complete start against the Falcons he received a pass blocking grade of +1.8, a performance that Bushrod eclipsed only once in 2012. His injury history is obviously a reason for concern, but if healthy I believe Brown will impress a lot of people in 2013.
Some more food for thought - Steve Palazzolo did a VERY interesting study to analyze pressure from the "blind side." It's a bit long, but the results, whether you agree with them or not, are very compelling.
Time's Picayune's No. 21 - Mark Ingram