We’re back with another installment from Football Outsiders, which focuses on all things related to the New Orleans Saints (be sure to check their 2018 Almanac here). Today’s topic focuses on the big men on the front line, who are extremely underrated and underappreciated.
The Saints offensive line doesn’t get enough credit from many, what were some of the areas they were in the top compared to other teams?
Scott Kacsmar: It’s fair to give Drew Brees a lot of the credit for getting rid of the ball quickly and keeping the team’s pressure rate down to the lowest in the NFL (20.9 percent), but the line is very talented too. All five starters are returning for 2018, and four of them ranked in the top 10 at their position in snaps per blown block in 2017. Only Andrus Peat was 11th at left guard, but that’s obviously fine. The line was second in adjusted line yards, helping that running game produce so efficiently. It wasn’t just big, highlight runs by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara all season. The line had the lowest rate of stuffed runs for no gain or negative yardage (15 percent), and were ranked No. 7 in power situations.
Larry Warford was the only Saints offensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl, and he wasn’t even voted in at first. Ryan Ramczyk went from being the pick nearly everyone made fun of at 32nd overall to being a superb staple at right tackle as a rookie. Max Unger, who was 31 years old last season and has been in the league since 2009, played in every single offensive snap for the Saints last year (1,037) — so did Ramczyk.
Andrus Peat was thrown into playing left tackle to help fill in for injuries, but was still as effective as he was playing left guard. Terron Armstead, who did battle injuries last season, played in just 10 regular season games for the Saints. However, his blocks/presence were felt. This team doesn’t win in overtime against the Redskins without his block that sprung Mark Ingram, and when he tossed the Bills linebacker like a rag doll? That was something.
Every QB needs an O-Lineman that will block for him like Terron Armstead does herepic.twitter.com/zFPpr4DlQ6— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) November 12, 2017
Drew Brees was sacked just 20 times in 2017, his lowest total since the 2009 season. This was a Saints offense that was fourth in the league in scoring (448 points), second in total yards (6,259), first in rushing touchdowns (23), second in yards per attempt (4.7), fifth in rushing yards (2,070), fifth in passing yards (4,189), and second in interceptions thrown (8). If the big guys up front don’t do their job properly, then none of this happens.
Both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara made the Pro Bowl from stellar years, and they’ll be the first to tell you how much they value their offensive linemen.
The biggest question mark for New Orleans entering 2018 is who will emerge as the sixth man, who many might recall was Senio Kelemete. That answer has not yet emerged, but even without that, this promises to be another solid season for the Saints offensive line.
Oh by the way, let’s take those trash Madden 19 ratings and throw them out the window.