“He has mass and ass. Mass and ass kick ass” - Sean Payton on the signing of Larry Warford in 2017.
Since joining the Saints, Warford has been voted to the Pro-Bowl three straight seasons. While the “worth” of a Pro-Bowl selection is up for debate for many (Xavier Rhodes?!) it still is one of the many tools use to gauge a player’s success throughout the years. At only 28 years old, hopefully there are still plenty of these types of seasons ahead of Warford while donning the black and gold.
Now how much did the Saints benefit from Warford? It’s no secret that the running game had a lot of success running to the right side this season. Of course Ryan Ramczyk plays a part in this (and was the offensive line’s lone All-Pro selection), but if we break down the team’s success by gap we’ll see than Warford’s “mass and ass” did as well.
By success rate Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Taysom Hill and Zach Line combined for 62 carries, 298 yards (4.8 YPC) and 4 touchdowns running directly behind Warford according to SIS. This was the most touchdowns on the ground behind any one particular gap. Furthermore, there were 9 10+ yard runs (explosive plays) directly behind Warford which was tied for most on the team with the outside runs along the left side.
As rushers Kamara, Murray and Line average 4.5 yards per carry behind Warford which was actually more than they average running behind Ramczyk (4.3) or Terron Armstead (3.1) who are considered the staples of the offensive line.
Finally, I think it’s important to note how reliable running behind Warford was when it came to critical downs like 3rd and 4th downs. Kamara, Murray, Line and Hill averaged 5.8 yards per carry behind Warford in those situations, second only to running straight up the gut behind rookie center Erik McCoy. Warford (and Peat) obviously play a role in A gap rush success.
If there are areas that statistically looks as if Warford took a step back it would be in pass protection where the Washington post listed him as giving up 3 sacks (tied for second most of his career) and being called for 4 penalties (most in his career). Something important to remember are some of the ways he was used.
For example, due to injuries to both the offensive line, tight ends and even quarterback we saw the Saints use play-action and pulling Warford to the weak side to block the end man on the line of scrimmage. Warford is a big, strong mauler, but isn’t the most fleet footed of the team’s offensive linemen. At times this could create mismatches against quicker edge rushers. This is not to say these playcalls were bad calls, as Warford handled this role well on most occassions, but that he was simply asked to do more than other players might have to at his position.
Regardless, what the Saints have gotten over the past three years is a consistent, healthy and dominant player at his position who regularly ranks towards the top at his position amongst the litany of analytics sites and firms that have popped up over the past decade.
Warford is now only the 3rd Saints offensive lineman to be voted to three Pro Bowls while a member of the black and gold joining Jahri Evans and Hall of Famer Willie Roaf. Evans also received his first Pro Bowl nod at 26 like Warford and would go on to make the squad through age 31. If the same holds true for Warford then there are still a few good years left in his tank.