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Why the New Orleans Saints Could Win it All, Part I: Offensive Line

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Unger’s injury hurts, but the offensive line looks to be better this year.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing back a series of pieces from last year, we’re going to check each position group on the New Orleans Saints and discuss how they improve the Saints’ chances of making a run in 2017. Let’s start with the offensive line...

Pro Football Focus ranked all NFL offensive lines following the 2016 season, and the Saints came in roughly in the middle of the pack:

Injury hit the Saints’ line this season, and LT Terron Armstead—well on his way to being one of the best tackles in the league—played just 397 snaps across seven games, leaving more than one of those contents injured. The Saints didn’t have an adequate replacement plan in place, and Andrus Peat was inconsistent (at best) as he moved between left tackle and left guard all season. Zach Strief was the team’s best lineman at RT, allowing two sacks over 717 pass-blocking snaps, but Max Unger also played well in the center, giving up only 12 total QB pressures all season. If this unit gets Armstead back and healthy, it has the potential to be far better in a hurry.

Long-time New Orleans Saints staple Jahri Evans won’t be back with the Saints in 2017, and unfortunately, Saints Center Max Unger is dealing with a foot injury, but will be looking to make a return before the start of the regular season.

So here’s why they’re better in 2017:

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

So let’s start with the obvious: the Saints made it a point to address the offensive line this offseason, notably selecting OL Ryan Ramczyk with the last pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Ramczyk could immediately come in and challenge Strief for a starting role in 2017. The Saints signed former Lion Larry Worford in free agency, with Worford looking to help replace the loss of Jahri Evans.

Hopefully Unger will be ready and healthy for the entire 2017 season, and the Saints will hope to see growth from young offensive linemen like Andrus Peat, Landon Turner and Senio Kelemente. As Pro Football Focus noted, another big key for improvement on the Saints offensive line in 2017 is a healthy Terron Armstead. If Armstead is able to play a full 2017 season (Armstead hasn’t played more than 13 games in a single season since 2014), and if Unger is able for Week 1, the Saints’ offensive line could be one of the best in the entire league.