Saints: Interior line play hurts the passing game
New Orleans Saints like to be contrary; where most teams covet offensive tackles, the Saints have placed their premium on the offensive guard position. The theory was QB Drew Brees’ quick decisions allowed the team to focus on keeping the pocket intact, rather than worrying about edge pressure. Last season was a perfect example of this in action. Even though the struggles at left tackle allowed enormous pressure from Brees’ blind side, the offense line still recorded an 80.8 Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) score, sixth-best in the NFL in 2013.
However this season the exact opposite appears to be true, as both tackles, Terron Armstead (+1.9) and Zach Strief (+3.5), have been solid in pass protection, while the interior line has disappointed. The result has been an increase in pressure, surrendering 40 more pressures than at this point last season, leading to a 76.8 PBE this season, which ranks 25th in the league. Perhaps the greatest concern surrounds the play of perennial All-Pro right guard Jahri Evans. Grades aren’t available for his rookie season, but Evans has finished with a positive grade in pass protection in every season since, for a cumulative +47.6 grade prior to 2014. A stark contrast to the -17.6 grade he’s posted this season, which ranks last among guards, a highly unusual position for a player as accomplished as Evans, which must concern the Saints.