Saints: Balanced Unger solidifies center spot
There may be some consternation about the Saints giving up Jimmy Graham in this trade but they have at least acquired one of the league’s premier centers and upgraded a fourth round pick to a first round pick with it. Though fans won’t be swooning over Max Unger’s play-making ability, he ties down the center of the Saints’ line with a quality blocker in both the run and pass games.
This season injuries limited Unger to 385 snaps in the regular season but some punishing and consistent run blocking in those limited snaps ensured he finished as our No. 4 ranked center. Only twice in his nine starts last season did Unger grade below zero and he graded above +1.0 in six of those games. But for injury this season looked like being a match for Unger’s 2012 season where he earned a +31.1 overall grade, built around his run blocking where he never earned a run block grade below -1.0 all season long.
The loss of Graham will be felt in New Orleans and the Saints will need plans in place to replace him, but their offense has always been at its strongest when it has balance, and that balance is centered on their offensive line. With Jahri Evans starting to decline the Saints have moved to lock down their interior offensive line with the acquisition of Unger and having re-signed Mark Ingram we may yet see a re-emphasis of the running game in New Orleans this season.