Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saints Nation: Who Starts at Left Tackle?

With every other starting position on the Saints' offense pretty much locked up (except maybe the #2 receiver slot) the biggest competition going into camp has to be at left tackle now that Jammal Brown has been shipped to the Redskins for a draft pick. Incumbent starter Jermon Bushrod (pictured) is the favorite and he'll get the first shot at keeping his spot, but I think it would be very unwise to take that as a given. Bushrod was pretty good at times last year, but there were other times where he was downright shaky. His disastrous play in the Dallas game comes to mind as a major lapse in play. I will give Bushrod credit for bouncing back impressively well from that performance, but the Saints gave him a lot of help all season. The fact that left tackle is the weakest link on the Saints' offensive line is a big of a source of concern. While the Saints still managed to get through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl with a weaker left tackle, it's not ideal that left tackle be the biggest question mark on your offense. Bushrod benefited from Brees' quick release, superior footwork, and line schemes designed to lighten his responsibilities. I assume the Saints will continue to do the same regardless of who ends up starting at left tackle, but it would be good to see Bushrod get pushed. Veteran Zach Strief, perhaps best suited to play right tackle, and rookie 2nd round pick Charles Brown, will be the two guys vying for Bushrod's job. I think it's safe to say the Saints will continue to find ways to get Strief on the field, whether that's at left tackle or elsewhere. The team likes his massive frame and benefits greatly from his power off the edge blocking lighter defenders on running downs. Whether he has quick enough feet to manage an outside pass rush is the big question in terms of Strief playing every down. Brown, on the other hand, I have to admit I know next to nothing about. He's got to be a solid prospect, though, because the Saints believed he was 1st round quality in terms of ability. They had him graded so high they said it was a no brainer taking him in the 2nd round ahead of pretty much everyone else left on the board. I have a feeling they are hoping he'll step in and outplay Bushrod and Strief both, but there's got to be a significant learning curve for a tackle that young. It will be something to keep an eye on for sure. I'm going to predict that Charles Brown ends up starting for the Saints at left tackle this season. It's a bit of an uneducated guess because I've yet to see what Brown can do, but I know the Saints are extremely high on him, and while the Saints survived with Bushrod's play last year, I know they are hoping for an upgrade. Whether that's Bushrod showing strides in improving, Strief continuing to be more reliable on a more permanent basis, or Brown surprising the veterans, I know the Saints don't want to settle for getting a similar performance at left tackle.