The guard position is probably one of the most secure on the Saints' team, but also one of the most important. The Saints have spent much more money on this position than the tackle position, which suggests they value it much higher with Drew Brees at quarterback. Interesting, because traditionally tackle has always been more important to other NFL teams. Brees has great footwork in the pocket and an uncanny ability to feel pressure from the outside and move up in the pocket. That's where stellar play on the interior comes at a premium. Fortunately for this offense, the Saints have that. Here are the players:
Jahri Evans: The four time pro bowler is entering his eighth season with the Saints after being drafted by the team in the 4th round in 2006. In 2010 he received the richest contract for a guard in NFL history and he's come close to giving that full vfalue. I wouldn't say he's the best guard in the NFL now, and certainly not in history, but he consistently gives the Saints upper echelon performance consistently each year. He's the backbone of the offensive line. He is a definitive starter for hopefully a long time to come.
Ben Grubbs: The Carl Nicks free agency replacement has largely lived up to expectations so far. He had big shoes to fill and while he's a different type of player than Nicks and not as dominant in the trenches, he offers better pass protection, technique and mobility. He's been one of the successful free agent signings in the Sean Payton era. He is the unquestioned starter at left guard, and he's a lock to make the team.
Eric Olsen: Olsen was not only the primary interior backup lineman last year, he also played a lot as the jumbo tight end off the edge due to all the injuries the Saints suffered at tackle. He handled himself pretty well in extended play last season, although never at the traditional guard spot which is his natural spot. After being a mainstay on the team and playing 16 games last season, Olsen is the odds on favorite to land the backup role again.
Andrew Tiller: Tiller came to the Saints from Syracuse under the tutelage of former offensive coordinator Doug Marrone. Tiller was a 6th round draft pick last year but spent his rookie season on injured reserve. He's got a massive frame and has the potential to be pretty special in my opinion. This year is big for him to make a step forward. Due to his size he has the potential to be a dominant run blocker, but his pass blocking is less good due to his lack of mobility. Tiller could be a big boost to the running game, though. I think he's got a 50-50 shot at the roster.
Ricky Henry: Henry is a 3 year vet that played one game for the Saints last year and one game for the Bears the year before. My question is this: if you remember how positively atrocious the Bears' o-line has been the last few years, and this guy couldn't even cut it on that squad, how is he going to develop into anything worthwhile on the Saints where the position is a strength? He was an undrafted free agent that also spent a brief time with the Falcons. I don't see him making the team.
Jeremiah Warren: The undrafted rookie last year spent a little time with the Patriots and Cardinals last season but never played in a game. His write up is similar to that of Andrew Tiller. I don't see him on the roster.
Tim Lelito: He's an undrafted rookie free agent from a no name school, which probably means knowing the Saints he stands an excellent chance to make the roster. Haha. He is incredibly slow in 40 times but is spoken of highly by scouts. He's probably a practice squad guy.
Prediction: I think the Saints will either keep three or four guards. Because I think they may keep extra tackles this year with the left tackle spot somewhat uncertain, I'm leaning towards guessing they'll keep three. The battle for the #3 spot in my estimation is squarely between Olsen and Tiller. I'm going to predict Andrew Tiller turns some heads and becomes the primary interior backup. Olsen is the favorite due to experience, though. It's possible they'll keep both, too. I don't see Henry, Warren or Lelito with any chance of making the 53 man roster.