'The guys that are going to be out there, we're going to have confidence in'John DeShazier
The New Orleans Saints have been in the unfortunate position of reading this script before regarding the offensive line.
On Sunday against the Rams (3-6) in the Caesars Superdome, New Orleans (3-7) likely will open with its third starting offensive line combination in as many games as it seeks to end a two-game losing streak and to perhaps gain ground, or at least not lose any, in the NFC South Division.
"I think we still get together and we talk about it as we're going through the gameplan," offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. "(Offensive line coach) Doug (Marrone) and (assistant offensive line coach) Zach (Strief) do a great job of getting those ready, whoever's going to have to be out there.
"(But) we've still got to run our offense. Any game that you go into, you pay attention to not only who you have, but maybe who you're lining up against and where certain things might go."
Against Baltimore, New Orleans opened with James Hurst at left tackle, Andrus Peat at left guard, Erik McCoy at center, Cesar Ruiz at right guard and Ryan Ramczyk at right tackle. Hurst, Ruiz and Ramczyk remained intact for the Steelers game, but Louis Kidd opened at left guard with Peat sidelined by a triceps injury, and Josh Andrews started at center due to McCoy's injured calf. Andrews will start again on Sunday, Coach Dennis Allen said.
Figure on at least one more adjustment Sunday, given that Hurst, who sustained a concussion against the Steelers, didn't practice Wednesday through Friday and has been ruled out. Landon Young came in at left tackle to finish out against Pittsburgh.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Saints have had two of their worst offensive showings in consecutive games - 13 points, 243 yards of offense and 3 of 11 on third down against Baltimore, and then 10 points, 186 yards and 3 of 12 on third down against the Steelers. The Ravens and Steelers both play 3-4 alignments defensively.
"The guys that are going to be out there, we're going to have confidence in," Carmichael said. "We'll pay attention to who we have, but also the matchups that we'll be facing. We've got a big challenge ahead of us, the 'Okie' structure with the Rams and that's what we've seen the last couple of weeks.
"They're very multiple in their alignments, they make it difficult for you to know where everybody is lining up. We've got to find ways, we've got to be creative in what we do."
Young said while New Orleans has been forced to deal with the injuries, it's not as if it's new for the team. Ramczyk missed six games last season, McCoy missed four, Peat was injured for 11 and Terron Armstead, last year's starter at left tackle, was out for nine.
"It definitely has a difficulty to it, and we saw that last year as well," Young said. "We had so many different offensive lines, sort of movements that we did throughout the whole season. I think we had a taste of that last year, and so we're more used to it this year.
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"But it does make it a little more difficult, especially when you don't know who's playing next to you. But that's why we try to do so many different rotations in practice, make sure that we're getting reps with everybody. So that when we do get that next man up, that we have had a chance in the week prior to play next to everyone that could be at that position."
The degree of difficulty ramps up with facing Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time All-Pro who has five sacks, nine quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble this season.
"He's one of the most disruptive players," Carmichael said. "You just see him making plays and plays. They're multiple with their alignments, and so they make it hard for teams to target where he's going to be. That's their scheme and they do a great job and he's obviously a great, great player."
"It can be troublesome but at the end of the day, we have to trust the man next to us no matter what," Young said. "Whether you're the third in line, whether you're the fifth in line or whether you just came into the program today, we expect you to be able to go out there and do everything you can within yourself and your knowledge and your ability to play to be able to do whatever you can against those players. I think that everyone on this line has trust in whoever is put into that position to be able to do what they need to do."
New Orleans Saints