Letting an All-Pro leave is always difficult. Luckily the player replacing him is at the same level. And it didn't hurt that the team saved close to $20 million by taking in Grubbs over keeping Nicks.
The end result should ultimately be more of the same. The Saints will lose nothing in production by moving from Nicks to the less expensive Grubbs.
In fact, the team figures to get better in one key area—running the football.
After watching four full games of film from the 2011 season (Week 1 versus Pittsburgh, Week 11 versus Cincinnati, Week 12 versus San Francisco and the AFC Championship Game versus New England), it is quite clear Ben Grubbs is a great offensive guard.
Grubbs is so great in the run game for a number of reasons. First, he has incredible feet. For a behemoth of a man that Grubbs is, those feet are quick and he keeps them moving unlike anyone his size.
He is also able to move well laterally. He uses that incredible lateral quickness in zone-blocking schemes and a tremendous of flexibility to move the defender exactly where he wants that guy to go.
And he is stronger than just about any other guard on the planet. Whether it be in pass protection or opening holes in the run game, Grubbs often can be seen dead-lifting his opponent with those strong legs and lower back.
That combination allows him to move defenders and absolutely dominate them and take their will away from them. Occasionally in the running game, he simply mauls opponents and takes them to the ground. Saints fans will love that quality about him as he opens holes for Pierre Thomas and the rest of the Saints backfield.
In the passing game, Grubbs excels due to a high IQ. He is always looking for someone to block in pass protection.
More importantly, though, he is a master technician. He uses that IQ with his skill set to showcase some ability.
He does a great job of moving his feet and rotating his hips to move pass-rushers beyond the quarterback. Best of all, he gets his hands on the defenders and then releases them as every offensive line coach teaches their linemen.
There are only two possible issues that could be detrimental to the success of the Saints offense.
From an in-game perspective, Grubbs doesn't knock defenders' hands down as they rush the passer. An intelligent pass-rusher will simply hold up and get their arms extended high in the air against him to tip Drew Brees' passes down.
Of course Brees, at this point in his career, is evolved to the point he knows how to avoid defenders tipping his throws. Nonetheless, this issue is pertinent.
Even more dangerous, potentially, is the injury bug Grubbs had a season ago. He played in only 10 games during the regular season. Granted he has been mostly healthy throughout his career, but no team ever wants to consider its future without one of its better players.
Assuming he can stay healthy, and learn to get the hands of a pass-rusher knocked down, Grubbs should make his way onto the NFL's All-Pro team in 2012. He is that good.
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