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ESPN Ranks New Orleans Saints Offensive Line Number One

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Believe it or not, but the Saints offensive line is doing some great things in 2016 that haven't gone unnoticed.

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Despite concerns during the offseason, the offensive line has been one of the bright spots this season. The big boys up front are the top rated O-line according to ESPN and this is with Terron Armstead who the Saints placed on IR yesterday, missing half of the season. 2015 draft pick Andrus Peat has had to switch back and forth between LT and LG. This may also come as a surprise, but the O-line is tied for 1st in the NFL with fewest penalties. Max Unger who missed his 1st game this season against the Buccaneers, was sorely missed last week. The Dallas Cowboys O-line is the other team who has the fewest penalties, but their run blocking dragged them down to the 4th ranked line.

1. New Orleans Saints

The Saints are sixth in offensive DVOA, and the offensive line is a big reason why. It's a bit of a surprising performance from a group of players who aren't too well-known. Left tackle Terron Armstead has missed half the season with injuries, forcing 2015 first-round pick Andrus Peat to rotate between left tackle and left guard. Most observers thought veteran Jahri Evans looked over the hill when he couldn't make the Seattle roster in preseason, but he returned to the Saints and slotted right back into his old right guard spot. Right tackle Zach Strief has developed into a strong run-blocker but has yet to make a Pro Bowl. Center Max Unger, who came over from Seattle in the Jimmy Grahamtrade, completes the starting five.

The Saints are dead last in pressure allowed, according to ESPN Stats & Info charting, and they are fifth in adjusted sack rate. Sure, part of the reason the Saints do so well in pass-blocking metrics is that Drew Brees is so good at avoiding sacks and doesn't run into his own pressure. But that doesn't explain why the Saints lead the league in adjusted line yards, or why they've had runners stuffed for a loss or no gain only 14 percent of the time. New Orleans is even tied for the fewest number of penalties by offensive linemen (24).

Offensively there haven’t been many bright spots for the fans, but the consistent play of the line will hopefully carry over into next season. Jahri Evans was a complete surprise to this author, who had all but written him off this season. A sore point might be that a team that is ranked so well for run blocking makes so few attempts. Last weeks line performance showed the importance of Max Unger in the line-up as well as the Saints need to upgrade the O-line depth, either in the draft or through free agency next season. Drew Brees was on his back entirely too much last week as evidenced by the green grass stains all across his jersey.

Ranking All 32 Offensive Lines
RANK TEAM ALY STUFF ASR PRESS PENALTIES
1 NO 1 2 5 5 1
2 PIT 2 6 2 2 26
3 WAS 5 5 4 4 14
4 DAL 3 4 8 8 1
5 OAK 9 8 1 1 32
6 TEN 4 10 14 14 14
7 HOU 10 3 10 10 7
8 PHI 8 9 15 15 29
9 CHI 12 15 12 12 7
10 NYJ 16 7 19 19 14
11 NYG 28 12 3 3 14
12 IND 7 1 30 30 1
13 KC 17 11 20 20 14
14 NE 13 19 9 9 7
15 ARI 6 16 24 24 12
16 GB 21 18 7 7 1
17 CIN 15 13 27 27 1
18 BAL 20 17 6 6 28
19 JAC 29 20 11 11 14
20 ATL 11 29 21 21 7
21 DEN 14 14 29 29 22
22 LA 25 21 25 25 14
23 DET 31 28 17 17 12
24 TB 18 30 13 13 31
25 MIA 24 32 26 26 14
26 MIN 32 31 16 16 22
27 SD 23 25 23 23 22
28 SF 30 22 28 28 7
29 CAR 26 27 18 18 30
30 SEA 22 24 22 22 26
31 BUF 19 23 32 32 22
32 CLE 27 26 31 31 1

So, what do you think fans? Does this match the eye test for you this season. Are you satisfied that this is enough for 2017 or do you think we need to invest heavily during the offseason.