The New Orleans Saints offensive line may make or break the team’s chances as the Carolina Panthers come to town for the first time this season.
Entering Sunday’s matchup versus the Carolina Panthers (5-5), the New Orleans Saints (8-2) and their offensive line are coming off a stellar performance against the Buccaneers where they allowed zero sacks and hardly any hurries on future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.
A lot of the offensive line success Sunday was attributed to veteran left guard Nick Easton who was filling in for the injured Andrus Peat. Nick Easton was solid versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers giving up zero sacks and no pressures.
"“He has been getting a lot of practice reps, but there wasn’t a lot of discussion. We felt like he was going to be the starting left guard. That gave us the ability to keep Will Clapp in his role. Nick [Easton] has played a lot of football in our league — he has started a lot of games. I am anxious to see the film because I think he played pretty well.”"
The Saints offensive line will be tested early and often against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are coming into Sunday’s game after sacking Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan three times and possess a bolstering 39 sacks, tied for the most in the NFL.
Defensive end Mario Addison leads the Panthers with 8 sacks, but the heart of the team resides within the interior of their defensive line in which they have a total of 12 sacks combined. They are led by the key offseason acquisition defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who also has chipped in with four of the 12 sacks.
This game will essentially be won in the trenches. The Carolina Panthers run defense is giving up 128.4 yards a game which is (27th) in the league and allowing 4.9 yards per carry which ranks 29th in the league.
In addition to Carolina’s run defense, their pass defense against running backs this year has been outstanding given up the fewest yards to running backs this year. This stat may be key since the Saints utilize Alvin Kamara in a multitude of ways in the passing game. It may also be due to Christian McCaffrey‘s presence testing their defense in practice.
The Saints are coming in riding high after seeing Latavius Murray and Kamara have productive outings in both the run and pass game. Saints starting running back Alvin Kamara had a yard per carry average of 5.8 yards against the Buccaneers and also tallied up 10 receptions for 47 yards.
The match-up between Kamara and Luke Kuechly will be exciting to watch.
Luke Keuchly had this to say in an article from theriotreport.com about defending Alvin Kamara:
"“There’s a certain way you have to tackle him. Sometimes guys try to go smack him and they just fall off. He’s unique – he’s like no one I’ve ever seen in the sense that guys crush him and they just kind of, he just kind of….rolls off, it’s almost like he invites contact. He’s super smooth, he’s so smooth with the ball and moving that it doesn’t look like he’s trying real hard."
If the New Orleans Saints offensive line can duplicate the kind of performance it produced versus Tampa Bay watch out for Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray to both have very productive days rushing and receiving against Carolina porous run defense.