Recent offensive line changes make one wonder if our world-class, first –rate, number one O-line might resemble more of a second line. Brees and Payton have enjoyed the security of a strong front five since joining the team in the 2006 season. Based on sacks allowed, the offensive line routinely ranked in the top 25 percent the past five seasons. In an offense designed for aerial attacks and screen plays, one would be hard pressed to find a better suited offensive line. Clearly, Drew Brees is a master defense-reader - calling audibles and making last-minute split decisions. His passer rating and completion percentage speak to his genius. Those in the know will be quick to point to the correlation between Drew Brees’s success and the capabilities of the offensive line. Just ask Drew himself….the offensive line has gone with him to every Pro Bowl he has played in. He knows where his bread is buttered, and so do we.
Which brings us to the question – why fix what ain’t broke?
This week, the Saints released Pro Bowl OT Jon Stinchcomb. With Pro Bowl G Jonathan Goodwin being traded to San Francisco there are some pretty big “cleats” to fill on the offensive line. Looking to fill these voids, are veterans C Olin Kreutz from Chicago and OT Jordan Black from Jacksonville. Naturally, I wanted to know how these teams stacked up to the Saints in terms of sacks allowed – anything to calm my nerves.
This is tricky to try and tease out – but being a “numbers” person, I thought I would comb through the stats on NFL.com to look for any data that might make me feel better about these moves. Unfortunately, stats for offensive line are thin – basically, you only have sacks to work with and that is an imperfect metric. A lousy quarterback can hold on to the ball too long and there is only so much the offensive line can do. Looking at sacks allowed, the teams Kreutz and Black have played for since 2006 are a bit all over the map, but skew towards being on the “not so pretty” side of things. But, when you cross that with quarterback statistics (QB rating and completion rating), the questionable protection seems less muddy – these guys were protecting QBs like Rex Grossman and Tyler Thigpen…enough said.
So after a half a pot of coffee and undisclosed amount of time on nfl.com, what did I conclude? One: nerves are greatly exacerbated by copious amounts of caffeine. And two: you can’t tell anything! What I do know is that statistics can be deceiving and this is a complex game. The symbiotic relationship between QB and offensive line is hard to quantify and maybe it can best be described in song….
It’s time to “Lay it on the Line”…or will they “Hold the Line”…will Brees be forced to “Walk the Line”…”It’s a Thin Line Between Love of Hate”….Okay, I’ve said enough!