Another surprise is the Atlanta Falcons O-line ranked 4th. That makes 3 of the NFC South's O-lines ranked in the top 5. Unfortunately, a great O-line doesn't translate into a championship team without a good defense. While the Dallas Cowboys ranked 1st, The Panthers ranked 2nd, the Saints ranked 3rd, the Falcons ranked 4th, and the Cleveland Browns ranked 5th, only the Panthers made the post season and are playing in the NFCCG.
Let's take a look at the Saints rankings and the effect it had on the Play of QB Drew Brees. Drew threw a season total of 11 interceptions. Drew has only thrown 11 INTs 3 other times with the Saints. His career high was in 2010 when we had a QB hobbled for most of the season by a knee injury and playing with a knee brace. His next highest was during Bounty Farce in 2012. He threw 19 INTs behind an O-line ranked 6th. In 2014 Drew threw 17 INTs behind an 11th ranked O-line and and in 2013 Brees threw 12 INTs behind an 11th ranked O-line. Drew was also sacked a record 37 times in 2013.
So what does this all mean? While the O-line struggled early in the season, causing Drew to miss his first game in his stellar Saints career, the line play improved and held steady for most of 2015.
PFF's rankings for New Orleans are as follows:
3. New Orleans Saints
Pass-blocking rank: 9th
Run-blocking rank: 2nd
Penalties rank: 10th
Stud: This was the year that former second-round pick Terron Armstead proved he was a top-tier tackle.
Dud: Nothing overly terrible here, but Senio Kelemete had some issues in pass protection that shouldn't be ignored.
Summary: The tackles are the most reliable players on this line, and the addition of Max Unger was certainly a good one (though you could debate whether the cost was worth it). Generally a really good run blocking outfit, let down only by their infrequent troubles protecting their QB up the gut.
I pretty much agree with the 9th ranking for pass blocking. Also agree with Terron Armstead being a top-tier tackle. Drew was sacked 31 times and pressured often. I believe the Max Unger trade was all positive. He accorded the interior a strong anchor and helped Drew avoid throwing INTs by removing Jimmy Graham who had given Drew tunnel vision, when it came to his former TE. No surprise to me Ben Watson had a career season.
The 2nd ranked run blocking may seem suspect, yet we had a pretty good year all in all running the ball. Ingram was having a good year before going on IR, and we lost Khiry Robinson to IR as well. Spiller was non-productive but I can't really blame the O-line for this. Also Tim Hightower finished strong behind this line during the last of the season.
It was posted earlier that there is only one QB in the history of the NFL who has led the league statistically in yards and TDs without making the playoffs. That's right our very own Drew Brees. 4 seasons.
I saw some weaknesses with several players. Jahri Evans while playing well for most of the season is aging and has had injury issues of late. We may need to address the interior guard position in the draft, as well as we may be counting on Andrus Peat to anchor the right tackle position next season. Zach Strief graded well for the season by PFF, but he was greatly responsible for the hits Drew took this season. If still on the team in 2016 I see Stief playing more of a backup role. So what do you think fans. Do we maintain status quo or do we shore up this line with FAs or the draft.
Definitely in my opinion, the majority of the draft needs to be addressing the pass rush and LBer play. An improved pass rush would improve the secondary and that is not as big a concern for me as last year. Even Brandon Browner could improve by being moved to a position he could actually play. A cover corner is definitely not his strong suit this late in his career. He should play nickle back and concentrate on covering TEs. Run blocking is also a weakness, but I don't know that DT is the position I would target with our 1st pick. I'll be looking ahead to the draft so also discuss positions of need as well as any players you are interested in for the draft.