Jan 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints tackle Zach Strief (64) and quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrate as they walk off of the field following their win against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Saints won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
#4. Zach Strief
Zach Strief has a been a tremendous player in New Orleans for a decade. He was a part of the “kingmaker” 2006 draft, and has been an anchor for Drew Brees’ front side ever since.
Alas, time catches up to all of us, and Zach Strief showed definite signs of age last year.
Entering this season, the Saints have question marks at virtually every offensive lineman position besides left tackle Terron Armstead.
Specifically, the guard positions are the greatest area of concern, as Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemente were less than stellar a season ago.
Sean Payton’s solution entering the year is to have the first round pick Andrus Peat start at one of these positions. One could make the argument that Peat’s performance this season will be every bit as critical as Strief’s this year.
I have ranked Strief as more important, because if Strief regresses or plays like last season instead of improving, Sean Payton may be forced to move Andrus Peat to right tackle, the position he was originally drafted to play.
Dec 13, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) rushes as New Orleans Saints tackle Zach Strief (64) blocks during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. New Orleans Saints defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
This would mean Sean Payton’s strategy was unsuccessful, and the gamble not to draft or sign a veteran guard would really come back to bite the Saints.
In order for Payton to be able to deploy Peat to shore up the interior of the line, Strief must be able to lock down the outside, like he has for so many seasons.
Ultimately, it is Zach Strief, and not Andrus Peat, who holds the key to the success of the offensive line, and by extension, the success of Drew Brees.
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