First and foremost the New Orleans Saints are a passing team. A vital part to passing successfully is the offensive lines ability to keep pressure away from the quarterback, and in the Saints case that means keeping Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees off his back.
Luckily New Orleans has had one of the better offensive lines in the league for the last several seasons. Brees has stayed clean and upright while the passing yards have piled up, propelling the Saints offense to league leading form year in and year out.
But not this year.
Two staples on the line were lost in the preseason. Center Jonathan Goodwin signed with the 49ers, while veteran right tackle Jon Stinchcomb was replaced after failing to get “back on the horse” after multiple injuries.
Their replacements were a bit of a question mark as well — Goodwin was replaced by an over the hill Olin Kreutz, and Stinchcomb by long time backup Zach Strief — and as it turns out neither would last very long as starters.
Both Strief and Kreutz were injured in week three, both missed time, and while Kreutz retired two weeks ago after being outplayed by backup Brian De La Puente, Strief looks to return to the lineup this week against the Buccaneers.
De La Puente has played adequately, but the jury is still out on if he is the long term answer at center. Strief was shakey from week one and his re-insertion into the lineup doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Saints fan base.
In fact one could make the argument that second year tackle, and former second round pick Charles Brown, had filled in well enough for Strief during his injury to be awarded the starting spot for good.
But Brown was injured last week against the Rams. He has been placed on injured reserve with a hip flexor, and the Saints signed tackle Ray Willis — formerly of the Seahawks — to bolster depth on the offensive line after the loss.