Saints’ pass protection must be on point against NFL’s most blitz-happy defense

We’ve seen real improvement from the New Orleans Saints offensive line in pass protection this season, but they face a steep challenge from the Minnesota Vikings this week. Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores is the most aggressive play caller in the NFL on passing downs.

Pro Football Reference research has found that his unit blitzes the quarterback on 51.3% of passing plays, well ahead of the second- (New York Giants at 43.1%) and third-ranked (Pittsburgh Steelers at 38%) squads. For comparison, New Orleans ranks twenty-third in blitz rate (23.4%).

And we’ve seen the Saints get overwhelmed up front before. Things have improved with Andrus Peat unexpectedly taking over at left tackle, and both Alvin Kamara (31 snaps in pass protection) and Jamaal Williams (18) have turned in solid reps in pass protection. They’ll all need to be on point against a Minnesota defense that isn’t afraid to send the house.

Derek Carr hasn’t responded well when asked to throw from a crowded pocket. Play-by-play charting at Pro Football Focus found that he has completed 67% of his pass attempts and thrown 7 touchdown passes against 2 interceptions when not blitzed this season; when teams do send extra pressure, he’s connected on 62.1% of his passes while throwing half as many touchdown passes and the same number of interceptions. Keeping Carr clean long enough to survey the field and find the open receiver is paramount.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire