I have no intention of belittling Mark Ingram‘s accomplishment. Every Saints fan saw how much his success meant to him, and I’m pretty sure we’re all happy for him. But Mark Ingram’s big night probably wouldn’t have happened if not for Jahri Evans‘ return to form.
To the gifs!
Jahri Evans Dominates the Second Level
The difference between a gain of a few yards and a long run is generally how well the blocking holds up on the second level. Basically: Are our big guys blocking their guys downfield?
Here, Evans actually does two things. First, he assists Saints center Brian De La Puente by hitting the Cowboys’ defensive tackle so that BDLP can turn him away from the play. Then Evans moves downfield and eliminates a Cowboys linebacker from the play.
Result? Mark Ingram picks up 34 yards.
It’s entirely possible Jahri Evans has, until now, been incapable of making a play like this thanks to the injuries he’s been dealing with since training camp.
Jahri Evans Owns the Point of Attack
Football coaching and scouting terms tend to be kind of stupid. For example, Jeff Duncan and I once got into a Twitter argument over the technical definition of “Jack.” Aside from the fact that linebacker positions are described with names from mediocre TV action series1, there are terms like “fluid hips” and the infamous “sudden,” which is relevant to any discussion that involves Mark Ingram.
Anyway, “point of attack” is one such term. It’s basically the title of a 90s military techno-thriller, not itself a Tom Clancy book but one of the knockoff novels in the subgenre inspired by Clancy — and if it’s not then it should be.2
What was I talking about?
Right, Jahri Evans. So, in football parlance, “point of attack” is pretty much the place along the line where you want the football to go. In the play below, Jahri Evans beats Cowboy Jarius Wynn at the point of attack.
The really great thing is that, while blocking Wynn, Evans even manages to throw enough of a block at Dallas safety Barry Church to keep him from having any chance to fill the hole.
As in the first example, Evans does two things on the same play, turning what’s likely to be a solid gain into a 30-plus yard one.
Also, shoutout to Jedidiah Gabriel Collins, who made great blocks like the one above all night.
What’s It mean?
The Saints’ offensive line has been pretty terrible all season. Oddly enough, the terribleness has been mostly focused inside, which is normally the line’s area of strength. Not coincidentally, Jahri Evans has been on the injury report all year.
But if Evans is healthy? Then the game has shifted. A healthy, full-strength Jahri Evans would have a domino effect along the entire line — the net effect is he’ll make Brian De La Puente and Ben Grubbs better players and raise the level of the entire line’s performance.
What we saw against Dallas was probably the single best run-blocking performance since the arrival of Sean Payton. If not, it’s in the discussion. If the line is this good for the rest of the season, we may need to recalibrate our excitement levels, because awesome things are very likely.
And we should know a lot more about Jahri Evans and the rest of the offensive line this time next week.