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New Orleans Saints 2018 season grades: Offensive Line

Could some big changes be in store for this dominant position?

Cleveland Browns v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 2018 New Orleans Saints were looked at by some as the bullies of the NFL. The Saints ranked 3rd in the league in points scored, averaging 31.5 points per game, and 8th in total offensive yardage. Elite stars like quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Michael Thomas, and running back Alvin Kamara make the New Orleans offense as tough to contain as anyone in the NFL. The underlying excellence of the offense this year though, was in the performance of a nearly impenetrable wall up front. Today we take a look at how the abilities of this gigantic position group affected the success of the 2018 season.


NFL: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints had one of, if not the most, dominant offensive lines in the NFL in 2018, particularly over the first 2/3 of the season. Their dominance began with two of the best pair of tackles in the league, with Terron Armstead on the left side and Ryan Ramczyk on the right. Armstead and Ramczyk held some of the NFL's best edge rushers at bay, and were instrumental in allowing Brees to get sacked just 17 times in 2018. Each were powerful run blockers as well, not only setting the edge for the team's talented running backs but athletic enough to get outside effectively on screen passes or into the second level of the defense. Ramczyk, the 32nd overall selection in 2017, has already become one of the best young tackles in the game, and played at a Pro Bowl level for the majority of the season. The 27-yr. old Armstead was playing perhaps the best football of his six year career before being sidelined by a pectoral injury. Taking Armstead's place in the lineup was veteran Jermon Bushrod, who played at a high level for a few games before age and injuries of his own limited his effectiveness down the stretch.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Left guard Andrus Peat, the 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft, played at a high level inside upon returning from a broken leg suffered in last year's playoff run. He was forced to move outside for a time due to the injuries to Armstead and Bushrod, where he did a serviceable job at tackle. Peat's home is inside at guard though, where his mauling style paves the way for the run game and sets up a solid pass pocket for Brees. He was affected by a hand injury over the last month of the year that hampered his blocking, but when at his best Peat was a vital part of the line's performance.

New Orleans Saints v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Right guard Larry Warford is the quiet force of this group. The 27-yr. old veteran played Pro Bowl level football for the second consecutive year with New Orleans after being added as a free agent a season ago. He was a formidable run blocker, and has outstanding agility in pass protection and as a lead blocker down the field. Warford and Ramczyk formed a powerful run blocking tandem on the right side, where the Saints would pick up the bulk of their rushing yardage. Center Max Unger is the veteran statesman of this group at 32 years old. The ten year pro was voted to his 3rd Pro Bowl in 2018, but struggled with pass protection over the final part of the season.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie Will Clapp and second year player Cameron Tom both provided key interior depth, and each received valuable playing time when the line combinations were juggled due to injuries. Clapp and Tom each have the capability to play both guard and center, which may give the Saints some options heading into next season. All five offensive line starters are under contract through the 2019 season, but both Peat and Unger are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of next year. Both players carry a high cap number for 2019 though, and particularly with the slip in Unger's play, there is a possibility that the team may move on from one or both this offseason and look for Clapp or Tom as replacements.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints offensive line was as dominating as any position group in the league through the first 3/4 of the 2018 season. The starting five possess an elite combination of power and athleticism, abilities that helped them control some of the league's best defensive linemen this year. Injuries to Armstead, Peat and Bushrod over the last portion of the season hindered the unit's superiority, and highlighted a likely need to add another capable tackle this offseason. When healthy though, this group not only controls the line of scrimmage, but sets a physical tone for the entire game. New Orleans would often establish a physical superiority on the opening drives of games. They kept their veteran Hall of Fame quarterback and face of the franchise upright, and often with plenty of time to go through his progressions in the passing game. They overwhelmed opposing defenses in the running game, paving the way for a 7th ranked rushing attack and a league high 26 touchdowns on the ground. This offensive line is a powerhouse, and the driving force behind one of the NFL's most balanced offensive attacks. Ramczyk, Warford, Armstead, and even Peat are just now entering the prime of their careers, and could be a dominating force for years to come.



How would you grade the performance of the Saints offensive line in 2018?

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222 votes total Vote Now