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Saints position spotlight: Offensive line

A position-by-position look at the New Orleans Saints’ roster through the Week 6 bye:

Snaps played: G Jahri Evans 368, G Ben Grubbs 368, OT Zach Strief 365, OT Terron Armstead 314, C Jonathan Goodwin 277, C Tim Lelito 91, OT Bryce Harris 57.

My take: Much like quarterback Drew Brees, the offensive line has actually been very good for most of this season -- better than people would expect considering the Saints’ 2-3 record. But their last performance against Tampa Bay was their most inconsistent to date, which leaves a bad taste.

All three of Brees’ interceptions against Tampa Bay came under pressure -- as did his previous-worst interception in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns. But for the most part, Brees has had clean pockets to work from. He’s only been sacked five times, and most of those came when opponents were facing running backs or tight ends.

The line has been mostly outstanding in the run game, picking up where it left off late last season. Individually, I’d probably grade all five starters about the same based on weekly game-tape reviews -- right around a B-plus. They’ve all been very good, with a minor setback or two mixed in.

Evans had a rough time against Tampa Bay’s outstanding defensive tackle Gerald McCoy last week, but that’s not a sign of how his season has gone overall. Fellow guard Grubbs has been playing about as consistently well as I’ve seen him in a Saints uniform. Strief is right there with him, playing much like he was for most of last season. Armstead hasn’t been quite as dominant as it looked like he might be in the preseason (he allowed two of the costly pressures that led to interceptions), but he’s looked very good at times. And Goodwin started very solid before a recent slate of minor injuries.

Offensive line coach Bret Ingalls said he is pleased with the improvements in the run game. And he said the totals sacks, QB hurries and QB hits are all down from a year ago. But he said there have still been breakdowns in both areas.

“We think as a group there’s been a lot of good things,” Ingalls said. “And yet, the things we concentrate on are the things we can do better.”

ESPN scouting Insider Matt Williamson’s take: “They’re doing pretty well. I think it’s a upper-half-of-the-league group of linemen. They’re still really solid at the guard positions. McCoy did have his way with Evans quite a bit, but McCoy does that; he’s a great player. I think the tackles are adequate, and Armstead’s arrow is pointing up. So the line’s fine.”