Saints mailbag, Part 1: Kromer's impact?

Thanks for submitting your questions to me on Twitter this week. A lot of good ones to choose from, so I’ll break it down into two parts. I’ll post Part 2 on Sunday morning as we count down to kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears.

I’ll put together a mailbag every weekend, and occasionally sprinkle some questions into my morning report. So send ‘em my way anytime @MikeTriplett.

@BTeabout: how much do you think Aaron Kromer could play into #Saints success this week? He knows us inside and out.

@MikeTriplett: Obviously it has to help on some level that Kromer served as the Saints’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the past five years before joining the Bears staff. Players will tell you that it helps when they know opponents’ tendencies and audibles, etc. -- even when they just pick them up during the course of a game. But it can’t help that much. Kromer can’t tell the defense what plays the offense will call at what specific times. And the Saints know what he knows, so they’ll certainly mix up some signals and audible calls.

As Kromer said this week, there’s not much he can tell Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker that Tucker can’t see on film himself (i.e., the Saints are scary). Saints quarterback Drew Brees said the biggest help Kromer can offer is knowing each individual player’s strengths and weaknesses.

“I guess technically he could take last year’s playbook and give it to them, and they could have all of our terminology and everything else, but it doesn’t mean they know at what time we’re running those plays,” Brees said. “I guess there’s certain things about personnel and such, just strengths, weaknesses, what have you, just by seeing guys every day in practice. [But] there’s such a game plan and so many specifics each week that you just kind of have and you’re thinking about executing. Every week in the NFL there’s got to be some type of, whether it be a coach or a player who is now playing for another team that used to be at the year before. I’m sure that happens quite often, and it is what it is.”

@JewBrees: as a fan I know how lucky we are Payton got Brees 2 sign. What's his legacy if he had 2 draft a QB? Still offensive guru?

@MikeTriplett: A fascinating question, and one I’d love to be able to go back in time and find out. I think both Sean Payton and Brees would have had success in the NFL without each other -- but I can’t imagine either would have performed at the prolific, historic level we’ve seen over the past eight years. Payton’s job would have been harder. Finding the right quarterback is arguably the most difficult and most important thing to do in the NFL, and it costs a lot of money and high draft picks to try.

Before the Saints signed Brees in 2006, they were leaning toward USC quarterback Matt Leinart as their target with the No. 2 pick in the draft that year (still early in the pre-draft process). Who knows? Maybe Payton would have molded him into an NFL success, though obviously Leinart has fizzled out with other teams. … Or maybe the Saints would have lured Brett Favre back closer to home in his later years. Or maybe they would have drafted Matt Ryan instead of the Atlanta Falcons, among countless other scenarios. Eventually, the Saints would have found a young quarterback or a veteran free agent they could count on. But I can’t imagine there’s any other quarterback who could execute Payton’s vision on the field better than Brees (except for maybe Peyton Manning).

@TattooedSaints1: the only two concerns of the team are both the fault of the O-line #rungame #Breestakingtoomanyhits ... what's the problem, Players? Scheme? Coaches (Ingalls)?

@super2510: is it the (outside) zone blocking schemes that is causing oline to struggle...will they return to form when used to it?

@Tru228boi: wht is wrong with ben grubbs? Got pushed around in run game.

@TheJacksonomist: Does anyone think Jahri Evans still looked seriously dinged up on MNF?

@dlocker8: any hope for the run game improving or is it defined for the rest of the year?

@MikeTriplett: If the Saints’ offensive line was playing well, I don’t think I’d have any questions in my mailbag. ... I've already addressed many of these questions in past mailbags and posts, but I understand why they aren't going away. I think the adjustment to new line coach Bret Ingalls and the new zone-blocking scheme definitely play into the issue. But based on my play-by-play reviews, the problems have really been widespread. They’ve struggled when they zone block and when they use traditional power blocking up the middle. And every player across the offensive line has taken turns getting blown up once or twice. As right tackle Zach Strief said earlier this week, he could truly answer yes to any question asked about what the problem has been.

I think Evans’ injury has clearly been one of the biggest issues. He didn’t play in Week 3 with a hamstring injury and didn’t look like himself in Weeks 2 or 4. But I think he’ll get better as he gets healthier (the Week 7 bye should help). Grubbs had the most high-profile blow-up of anyone last week, but he hasn’t been a consistent problem.

I don’t think the run game will ever be the strength of this team (I don’t think it ever was in the past). But I think it has to get better as they continue to tweak it. Last year, the run game was almost as bad in the first six weeks or so, and it improved greatly in the second half of the season. I'm even more confident that the pass protection will be solid, especially as Evans heals up. They were pretty good against the Miami Dolphins this past Monday night. Although they allowed two sacks, Brees didn't take many hits while throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns.

@MikeE928: Many seem distraught over #Saints lack of running game. Aren't these quick screens to Sproles & Thomas same as rushes?

@MikeTriplett: An offshoot of the previous questions. I completely agree that the Saints don’t need a run game to be a huge part of their offense. I’ve always said they might as well pass on every down since it works so well for them (and I’m only half-joking). And they’ve always been good at using screen passes and swing passes and draw plays, etc., out of passing formations to keep defenses off balance. … However, they clearly do want to be able to run the ball when they need to convert a second-and-1 or third-and-1. And they do want to be able to run out the clock when they’re protecting a late lead (which they’ve done surprisingly well this year). So the run game needs to be better.