49ers vs. Saints: 5 matchups San Francisco needs to exploit

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Patrick Omameh, Saints
Patrick Omameh #60 of the New Orleans Saints (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

No. 5: The left side of the Saints offensive line vs. Nick Bosa

Most of the metrics would tell you that the Saints offensive line is quite good.

Their Pro Football Focus grades for both pass (82.5, second) and run blocking (72.9, third) are near the top of the league in both categories. And Football Outsiders has them ranked as the No. 1 unit in terms of run blocking (adjusted line yards of 5.09) and the seventh best according to adjust sack rates (5.8 percent). They’ve only allowed 21 sacks, also seventh in the league.

From a player-by-player standpoint, however, the numbers are not as favorable.

Rookie Erik McCoy, the team’s center, has graded out as above average so far this season according to PFF, with a 71.8 overall, 76.3 pass block and 71.8 run block. The guard next to McCoy, veteran Larry Warford, is also above average by PFF’s grading, with grades of 74.9, 72.4 and 74.8, respectively. Yet the stalwart of the unit is third-year right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who is considered elite by PFF’s grades, with scores of 89.0, 81.4 and 90.7 on the season.

This looks bleak, but it isn’t an above average unit all the way across. If the group is to be beaten, it’s on the left side of the line, where left tackle Patrick Omameh (58.8, 79.4, 36.9) and left guard Nick Easton (59.2, 48.2, 61.9) have been the weakest links of the line.

If the 49ers are going to cause trouble for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, they are likely going to have a better time going after his blindside. Omameh is a better pass blocker than run blocker this season, but his PFF history suggests the limited sample size so far in 2019 might be factoring in here.

And with normal starting tackle Terron Armstead still nursing a high-ankle sprain suffered a few weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, Omameh is likely to be called upon again.

Interior pressure on Easton should also be exploited, too, as he’s struggled to provide much help for Brees and the Saints offense at his position.

49ers rookie EDGE Nick Bosa, who normally lines up against the opposing team’s left tackle, should be looking to take advantage of this matchup and add to his 10.6 PFF pass-rush productivity rate, second among players with 300 or more snaps.

Hurrying Brees is going to be key to stopping the Saints offense on Sunday, but so is forcing lesser receivers to beat you.