QB Drew Brees has been uncharacteristically sloppy during a crucial stretch of the season, and his pass protectors have not kept the pocket as clean as Brees or the Saints would like it to be in the past two games.
The regression up front could be a sign of things to come for an offensive line that has most of its starters reaching the back end of their prime years, if they have not moved past their prime already.
Brees acknowledged after New Orleans’ Week 13 loss to the Falcons that he has made bad decisions with the ball in his last two outings, resulting in interceptions, but disruptive pass rushers played a role in causing turnovers Thursday night.
Brees, who has thrown seven picks in the past two games and been sacked six times in the past six quarters, is on pace to be sacked a career high 29 times this season. The Falcons, while credited with only one sack, hit Brees six times total and were able to affect him with pressure in key moments.
This is not an offensive line that it appears to be on its way up — in fact, it’s likely moving in the opposite direction. ORG Jahri Evans and ORT Zach Strief — both seventh-year veterans — are not improving at this stage in their careers, and Evans has declined from his Pro Bowl form of seasons past. On the left side of the line, OLG Ben Grubbs has not been as effective as the player he replaced, Carl Nicks. A Pro Bowler last season, OLT Jermon Bushrod’s future is uncertain — he is in the final year of his contract — and serviceable C Brian de la Puente will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
The player the Saints drafted in 2010 to become a starting offensive tackle of the future, Charles Brown, cannot be trusted to stay healthy.
The once gilded New Orleans front five appers to be losing a bit of its luster.