What's up Who Dats! Welcome to another edition of Tee's Corner! Today we'll take a look at the New Orleans Saints offensive line and the changes that have been made to solidify this group for 2015. The theme of the Saints for this off-season has been to change the culture of the organization and the offensive line had a change, reportedly, for this very reason. A change to the blocking scheme that has been transitioning over the last 2 seasons seems to be in its final stages with the addition of center Max Unger and the trade of Ben Grubbs. It appears that the team is positioned to start young guard Tim Lelito beside Unger, so 2/5 of the offensive line is already younger. The success, or failure, of this group will heavily impact the Saints offense, especially the play of quarterback Drew Brees.
Based on the current roster on the Saints official website, the team has a very young offensive line group, with only 2 players over 30 years old. The average age of offensive linemen on the depth chart is 26.2 years old. This can be a gift and a curse but luckily, the starters are a bit older and have the in-game experience as well with an average age of 27.6 and about 5.6 years in the league. At tackle, there's Zach Strief (s), Terron Armstead (s), Bryce Harris, and Nick Becton. At guard, there's Jahri Evans (s), Lelito (as), Senio Kelemete, and Andrew Miller. There 2 centers listed on the roster in Unger (s) and Michael Brewster. At first glance, you'd think that the Saints are in major trouble due to so much youth on the depth chart, but the truth is, they rock like this every year. Looking at rosters going back to 2010 or so, you'll see that the Saints depth has generally been young players will little time in the league and even less time on the field beyond preseason. With the exception of Lelito, the projected starting line-up has quite a bit of experience under it's belt, including playoff games (at least 2 road playoff games specifically).
Based on the changes that have been made this off-season to the Saints offense, I'd say it's safe to assume that a shift from very pass-heavy to something more balanced is inevitable. Brees has paid his dues and shouldn't have to carry the offense as much when he has young bucks lined up behind him, ready to run wild. This transition was initiated in 2013 and became more evident towards the end of the year, mostly in the playoff road win at the Philadelphia Eagles. The ranking sites have the Saints offensive line grading out fairly well over the course of a season and a great debate is whether the unit looks better because of Brees or if they are actually pretty good. I think the Saints have had some pretty decent units over the years.
2015 is lining up to be better than 2014 because it appears there has been addition by subtraction. The grapevine has it that Grubbs was an issue for Brees and now he's gone. Grubbs had an up and down 2014, so the loss may not be as bad as one would expect. Then you take a look at his assumed replacement in Lelito and the worry kicks back up. Some of the concern can be squashed if the entire line is evaluated and maybe a slight change made. If the line stays the same as it was in 2014, Lelito swaps in for Grubbs between Armstead and Unger. But if Evans is able to play LG and Lelito is sandwiched between Unger and Strief, the transition could be seamless. Obviously, I'm a fan who is making an assumption that Evans can and would be willing to make the switch. To be honest, I'm fairly comfortable with the prospect of Lelito playing between Armstead and Unger. In the midst of this transition, I'm most excited to see how much of an impact Unger will have on the line play and even more so his impact as a locker room presence. This team could use some fresh leaders who have been there and Unger, along with Brandon Browner, have participated in the last two Super Bowls, even pulling a few rings out of the deal.
In the end, change can be a very good thing when your team is moving in a positive direction. The Saints are moving in a positive direction at this point and the improvements should be instantaneous. So tell us what you think, will the offensive line be better or worse in 2015?
Thanks for reading, Be Cool Who Dats!