New Orleans Saints 2015 midseason offensive grades

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Oct 4, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints center Max Unger (60) during overtime of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Cowboys 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

OFFENSIVE LINE

Bad.  Horrible.  Pathetic.  There are countless words we can use to describe the initial performance from the New Orleans Saints’ offensive line through the first several games.  Constant pressure on Drew Brees gave him no time to find the open man, leading to bad reads and poor decisions with the football.  The running game couldn’t get anything going with a lack of holes opened up by the blockers.  It was awful, and without any adjustments in the trenches, this once high-powered offense was doomed.

But then came Dallas.  Exclude Philadelphia.  And then came Atlanta, and Indianapolis, and New York.  This unit has seen a complete turnaround, and all of a sudden, they’re currently grading out as the No. 5 offensive line in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.  That may be a stretch, but stepping up on the line has turned into three-straight wins.

Left tackle Terron Armstead: A+
Armstead is quickly panning out to be a top tackle in the league.  He’s graded as the top offensive player on the Saints and third left tackle in the NFL, per PFF.  Allowing zero sacks, just one hit, and only six hurries on Drew Brees’ blindside, Armstead has passed at the top of his class with a perfect A+.  There is no proof to argue otherwise.  This guy is the real deal.

Left guard Tim Lelito: D+
Lelito isn’t a starter, but unfortunately, he’s the best the Saints have to offer at his position right now.  While his run blocking has been impressive, he has allowed a sack, as well as three hits and 11 hurries on Brees, which are both the most allowed allowed by a Saints offensive lineman.  Those hurries can lead to mistakes by the quarterback.  Lelito is slowly coming around, but his overall play has been far from stellar.

Center Max Unger: B+
The otherside of the trade that sent Jimmy Graham to Seattle is beginning to pay off.  Unger has played well in both run and pass blocking.  One of the better centers in the NFL, Unger is becoming a staple on the line while he continues to figure his new offense out.

Right guard Jahri Evans: C 
Once thought to be the top guard in the league, Evans’ career has taken a bit of a decline due to age and inconsistency.  He’s your average offensive lineman — not good, but not bad.  The former Pro Bowl guard is not who he once was, but he can still show flashes from time to time.

Right tackle Zach Strief : C-
Like Evans, Strief is just not the same as he was in the past.  However, over the past few games, he looks like he’s found the fountain of youth.  Still he’s, allowed the most sacks on Brees this year with six, as well as ten hurries. Strief allowed that big hit that almost ended Brees’ season.  He grades out as the second-highest player on the Saints’ offense, but that’s due to stellar run blocking.  Strief looks much better than he did to start the year, but he must stay consistent at protecting his treasured quarterback, otherwise the offense could start struggling again.

Overall Position Grade: C+
This unit has stepped up big in the past few games.  If we were to grade them on their past three contest alone, they’d be flirting with an A.  However, a bad start, highlighted by a near-devastating injury to Drew Brees knocked them down a bit.  Consistency is key here.  They have nine more weeks to bring up that final grade.

Next: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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