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Saints' 'red flag': Left tackle

5/15/2013

Football Outsiders is doing a league-wide series of posts called "Red Flags," which take a look at the biggest remaining issue facing each team. Today’s Insider post is on the NFC South and I’m break it up into four smaller posts to explore the red flags for each team.

Our next stop is the New Orleans Saints. Surprisingly, Football Outsiders didn’t go the popular route and point to the pass rush. Instead, Football Outsiders went with left tackle as the Saints’ biggest red flag.

The Saints lost Jermon Bushrod in free agency. Charles Brown and Jason Smith at least have some NFL experience, but Football Outsiders isn’t high on either of them. The Saints also used a third-round pick on Terron Armstead and some think he can follow in the footsteps of Bushrod, Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks as solid offensive linemen found by the Saints long after the first round.

But the scouting report from Football Outsiders on Armstead isn’t exactly glowing:

“(Armstead) had the fastest 40-yard dash and highest vertical leap of all offensive linemen at the combine this year. That will come in handy whenever the Saints call a play requiring a lineman to run very fast or jump very high. However, Armstead is generally considered a project player and is unlikely to start in 2013.’’

The fact is the Saints don’t have much salary cap room. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to import another left tackle. Like it or not, Brown, Smith or Armstead will end up protecting Drew Brees’ blind side next season.