Protection for New Orleans Saints Pro-Bowl QB Drew Brees is an absolute must in order for the offense to find consistent success. Unfortunately in 2014, that barrier was absent, constantly causing the gunslinger to force quick passes, resulting in bad reads and turnovers.
When your quarterback is responsible for 20 giveaways in one season, some of that accountability will fall onto the shoulders of the offensive line. In the Saints’ case, the guardianship of Brees was insufficient for a majority of the year.
As the 2015 NFL Draft approaches, Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis will likely rely on the selection process to help fill voids on the line. Now that the Senior Bowl is over, the scouting combine will be the next step of the rookie class analysis, so today we’ll look at LSU standout offensive tackle La’el Collins, a projected first-round prospect who impressed at Senior Bowl practice.
Born and raised in Tigerland, USA (Baton Rouge, LA), Collins boasts an NFL-ready frame that will likely suit him better at the guard position as a professional, but still displays the skill-set to be proficient at tackle on the right side and possibly the left. It’s time for Saints’ current left guard Ben Grubbs to take his talents elsewhere, so why not replace him with a local boy who also happens to be one of the top lineman in the country?
The 6-foot-5, 321-pound Collins displays extraordinary upper-body strength and forceful hands, granting him the ability to overpower and control a majority of his assigned defenders, and some. He is a tough, physical and mean opponent to go up against, branding himself as an intimidation factor on the field for the Tigers at LSU.
The way he uses his long reach in pass protection and strength as a run blocker to create lanes make him more equipped for a pro-style offense like the New Orleans Saints. If he gets beat on one play, he comes back meaner and harder on the next. Collins is a true finisher.
Of course, with strengths come weaknesses — nobody is perfect, everybody is flawed. Collins sometimes fails to use his hips and feet correctly, causing balance problems. While his aggression is admirable, he occasionally loses patience and lunges at defenders, which makes him top-heavy. However, these are all things that can be developed by an excellent Saints training staff.
Collins will likely have to move to right tackle in the NFL, or he can make the switch to either side at guard, a better scenario for the SEC standout. The New Orleans Saints have several holes to fill on both sides of the ball.
In a draft filled to the brim with pass rushers, the Saints could hold off in the first round and go the quarterback protection route. Collins is certainly an intriguing prospect and could very easily fall into the hands of Payton and Loomis at No. 13 overall. I’m sure the Who Dat Nation would have no problem with a Tiger turned Saint.
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