The Saints have a good bit of questions going into the new season, but offensive line doesn't necessarily seem to be one of the big ones. Sure, there are decisions to be made on some of their top contracts, and we could see some changes there, but they have their foundation set in stone. We finish out our series grading the offense for New Orleans.
How to calculate the grading for offensive linemen isn't an exact science, but durability, discipline, and pressure on the quarterback are probably some of the easiest metrics to help use. Here's how the big men up front fared in 2020.
|Player||Snaps||Snap %||Penalties/Yards||Allowed Sacks||Total Pressures|
Opponents finished with 29 total sacks on the Saints last season, which was an increase from their 25 allowed in 2019. They coincidentally lost the same amount of yardage in both seasons (187). The team was ranked 13th in their sacks per pass attempt at a 5.56 percent rate, which isn't necessarily a direct correlation to the offensive line play, but worth pointing out. New Orleans averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2020, which was their best season outing since 2017 (4.7). They had the league's sixth-best rushing attack on the year at 2,265 yards, averaging 141.6 yards/game.
If you want to get particular and talk about individual players, then you can say some didn't perform as well as others on the offensive line. Andrus Peat is the one who naturally sticks out like a sore thumb, and there were some growing pains early on from Cesar Ruiz, but that can also be attributed to the transition from center to guard and ultimately not having a full offseason program. Ruiz got better as the year went on, and veterans James Hurst and Nick Easton proved to be a valuable commodity for the team. Sadly, the concussion history is very concerning for Easton's future, which is a tough break also given the upcoming financial commitments New Orleans will most likely not take on.
Final Grade: A-
Overall, the group was strong. You can't ignore the 200-yard rushing games they had. Whether it was Taysom Hill, Latavius Murray, Alvin Kamara, or even Ty Montgomery, the offensive line was instrumental in the team's success on the ground. The pass protection wasn't perfect, but definitely improved in a lot of ways as the season progressed. Whoever plays quarterback for the Saints in 2021 will need the absolute best out of the offensive line.