The New Orleans Saints’ roster is in a bizarre state. There’s no clear quarterback frontrunner, the wide receiver corps has been decimated by injuries and the tight end room is helmed by Adam Trautman, a sophomore player who hardly got any snaps last season. As it stands, running back is looking like the only position that is shored up.
There is one major exception. The Saints’ offensive line is among the best in the NFL and it has continuity. Terron Armstead and the newly-extended Ryan Ramczyk are among the best bookends in the NFL, while there’s unquestionably room for growth between Andrus Peat and Cesar Ruiz. At center, Erik McCoy is a steady force for the Saints.
Last season, PFF had the Saints ranked eighth in the NFL for offensive line play, specifically citing the play from the interior line. Ruiz and Peat were very average in pass protection last season, which kept Drew Brees and Taysom Hill from getting too comfortable in the pocket. New Orleans needs progression from these two in order to overcome some already very long odds given the players already missing this year.
This year, PFF has the Saints ranked fourth heading into the season, trailing only the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. The offensive line situation only makes the quarterback choice more difficult. Jameis Winston clearly benefits more from strong offensive line play. He’s more statuesque in the pocket than Hill, which can help or hurt him in evaluation. The interior offensive line has to get better to give Winston any kind of chance to hit whatever receivers are on the field in Week 1.
Without question, this is a tricky and delicate situation. The offensive line situation both complicates and simplifies things for the Saints. It’s always nice to have strong offensive line play to fall back on, but the interior play is tricky. Peat and Ruiz — while not nearly as bad as they’re often made out to be — do have a lot of room for improvement.
Armstead, meanwhile, is in a contract year. The Saints undoubtedly want to lock him up long term opposite Ramczyk, but with several other key free agents hitting UFA next season it will come down to prioritization.
Regardless of any of this, the offensive line is a good unit to have shored up heading into an uncertain season. Whichever quarterback starts for the Saints this season knows he’ll have a reliable unit up front and that’s a huge confidence booster. In an offseason that’s been full of doom and gloom for the Saints, it may be the one part of the team that can keep them in any kind of race.
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