The Saints offensive line came into the season with expectations of sustaining their status as a perennially elite unit led by their two All-Pro tackles in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, with a budding star in center Erik McCoy leading a talented interior trio. The group was quickly dealt a significant amount of adversity beginning in Week 1 against the Packers, losing McCoy just five snaps into the game. This forced right guard Cesar Ruiz to bump over to McCoy’s spot with 2020 undrafted free agent Calvin Throckmorton taking over for Ruiz at right guard. Two weeks later in Week 3 against the Patriots, Armstead went down with a elbow injury eight snaps into the game. Both McCoy and Armstead have been out since.
Over that span the line has faced a couple of above average and below average defensive units (Panthers & Patriots currently rank 8th and 11th in defensive DVOA while the Packers and Giants rank 23rd and 25th), including some particularly strong interior defensive linemen that have tested their inexperience inside such as Kenny Clark, Derrick Brown, Morgan Fox, DaQuan Jones, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence. Two of those defensive units currently rank in the top eight in blitz rate (Panthers – 2nd, Giants - 8th) with the Packers at 17th and Patriots at 28th. The Patriots ranking is a bit misleading considering how often they run simulated pressures that don’t technically count as blitzing (five or more rushers), yet create similar problems for a line.
The results have been up and down with both encouraging and concerning signs for the future. Let’s take a closer look.