Saints Film Study: Position By Position Breakdown of Week 1
We all expected this unit to struggle against Khalil Mack. They did not. I can’t remember a time last year that Brees had such a consistently clean pocket. Moving forward, this was easily the most encouraging performance of the day. Even on the first quarter sack-fumble, the pocket was clean. Brees got greedy and looked for the deep ball to Cooks, which would have been there had he had about half a second longer. But it was a coverage sack. Brees had the time to make something happen.
Yes, the game plan effectively took Mack out of his comfort zone. But when Josh Hill went down with an injury, it fell to the tackles to contain the All-Pro Mack. Terron Armstead came back from his quad injury to put in the sort of game we’ve come to expect from him. He claimed he’s still working through some rust, but it didn’t show on tape. He smothered Mack enough that the Raiders tried to move Mack around and find a more favorable matchup.
They settled on Zach Strief, who many Saints fans feel is losing the battle with age. Strief arguably played Mack even better than Armstead. The RT has been a cornerstone of this Saints offense for years, and continues to play at a high level. Most fans underrate Streif. Mack was able to blow up a few runs, but he’s Khalil Mack. No tackle is shutting him down all game. Strief played about as well as you can ask.
Max Unger put up one of his consistently solid performances, rarely missing on his blocks and making a few notable plays in the run game. The Saints struggled to use his athleticism early in his New Orleans career, but they’re getting the most out of it now.
Everyone was happy when Jahri Evans returned to the team, but I don’t know if anyone expected that he’d be ready to contribute at such a high level. Granted, he’s still on the decline, even from an average showing last year. But he’s so far ahead of Lelito and Kelemete. The aging vet was somehow exactly what this offensive line needed to sure up at guard.
Across from Evans, the much maligned Andrus Peat demonstrated why the Saints still have faith in the struggling second-year player. Now entrenched at LG, Peat opened up a number of holes in the run game, and was sound in pass protection. He struggles with the cut block, but has shown more than enough speed to pull and get to the second level.
Next: Who Else?