Saints offensive line changes could point to New Orleans extending the contract of their three-time Pro Bowl running back, Alvin Kamara.
Article written by Andrew Gullotta, Saints News Network's Intern and Host of the Who Dat Discussion.
New Orleans shocked the football world by drafting C/G Cesar Ruiz with the 24th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Saints elected to inject youth into the offensive line by adding Ruiz, who will replace veteran guard Larry Warford.
Warford looked like a mainstay on the offensive line after making three straight Pro Bowls in the black and gold. However, the move to replace Warford followed a recent trend to acquire more athletic lineman. In New Orleans, they needed someone who could consistently block on screen passes and zone running schemes. In addition to the rookie Ruiz, New Orleans re-signed left guard Andrus Peat to a hefty contract and selected center, Erik McCoy, in the 2019 NFL Draft.
These moves to become younger and faster on the offensive line must have one particular Saints star grin from ear to ear, RB Alvin Kamara.
The 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year specializes in zone running concepts and the screen game. Kamara is a perfect fit for the Saints' offensive line blocking philosophy. His impeccable vision and lateral agility make him one of the league's best running backs in these areas.
Over the past two seasons, the Saints were not consistently successful at screen plays because of the offensive line's lack of speed and agility. The average 40-yard dash time from the two guards and center (LG Andrus Peat, C Max Unger, and RG Larry Warford) in 2018 was 5.34. Going into 2020, the average 40-yard dash time of the starting interior offensive line (LG Andrus Peat, C Cesar Ruiz, and RG Eric McCoy) is 5.05 seconds. The difference will give the Saints the time needed to set up successful screen plays this season consistently.
The 2017 Saints racked up 239 more yards after the catch than the average in the 2018-2019 seasons. New Orleans threw more yards through the air in both 2019 and 2018 compared to the 2017 offense. These stats convey that the Saints screen game was less productive in the past two years, as yards after catch directly correlate to the productivity of the screen game.
With the Saints making changes to align with Kamara’s running style, it’s easy to forecast that the three-time Pro Bowler will be wearing the black and gold for a long time, even though he is entering a contract year.
As franchise quarterback Drew Brees’ career is waning, the Saints will need to find another focus of the future offense. These moves on the offensive line to become more mobile show that Kamara will be a big part of transitioning to life after Brees.
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