- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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A look at the New Orleans Saints' offensive line through the first six weeks of the 2013 season:
Looking back: The Saints’ line has steadily improved each week. The run-blocking is still a work in progress after a dismal start, but the Saints had by far their best rushing performance in the second half last Sunday at New England (112 yards on 20 carries after halftime). The pass protection has been solid in recent weeks after an uncharacteristically shaky start. And the line has been excellent in the screen-passing game, a longtime staple of the Saints’ offense.
The biggest problem in September was All-Pro guard Jahri Evans’ hamstring injury (both he and his backup, Tim Lelito, struggled mightily). But Evans has looked much closer to his usual self in recent weeks. New left tackle Charles Brown has been solid in his first year as the starter, though he still gives up some big plays on occasion. Brown has allowed 3.5 sacks this year and has been flagged for holding five times (twice declined).
Looking forward: I still consider this unit an asset, especially with Evans and former Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs playing so well in recent weeks. I think Brown, right tackle Zach Strief and center Brian de la Puente are all solid pass-protectors who are used to having quarterback Drew Brees drop back 40-plus times per game. Backup tackle Bryce Harris held up well in place of Strief last week, though Strief should be back after the bye.
The run-blocking remains a big concern. The Saints have struggled to adjust after making an outside zone-blocking scheme a bigger part of their offense, but they've also struggled with their traditional power-blocking schemes. The New England performance was a good sign of progress, though.
Snaps played (out of a possible 415): Brown 415, Grubbs 415, de la Puente 415, Strief 350, Evans 340, Harris 94, Lelito 76.
ESPN scouting Insider Matt Williamson’s take: “I think the line’s playing well. And I didn’t know that Brown would ever be the answer at left tackle. But I think he’s done as well as [former starter Jermon] Bushrod. And Brees makes a lot of those things happen. But I think the line is well above average, and Brown’s a pleasant surprise.”