Considering the adjustments that the New Orleans Saints offensive line has withstood, and its ability to flourish amid them over the last 27 games (including playoffs), the reasonable expectation was there would be dip in production when left tackle Terron Armstead left the field with an injury in the second quarter of Sunday's 51-14 victory over Cincinnati.
And there wasn't.
Despite Armstead playing at, arguably, the highest level of his career, Jermon Bushrod provided a near-seamless transition when Armstead couldn't return. Partly, that was the expectation when the 12-year veteran was signed in the offseason to provide quality depth.
Bushrod, in fact, has started more regular-season games for the Saints than any other offensive lineman on the roster. During a different era, from 2009-12, Bushrod started 62 games at left tackle for New Orleans.
Center Max Unger is next on the list, with 56 starts as a Saint, and Armstead follows with 55 starts at left tackle. Bushrod provided a sense of familiarity for quarterback Drew Brees against the Bengals – Brees also was the starter during Bushrod's first stint with the franchise – and his level of play aligned with the starters when he entered the game.
"He's a player we're familiar with, in terms of makeup and character," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's someone that we understand the vision for. He's someone we're real familiar with."
THE MARSHALL PLAN: Receiver Brandon Marshall has had the Saints' playbook in his possession for at least a day, and Payton said the 13-year veteran appears to be a quick study. Payton also said that it works to Marshall's advantage that he had a training camp and played six games this season with Seattle before he was released. Still, he has some work ahead of him. "Having had the training camp experience, and he wasn't 100 percent healthy, this will give us a chance to see where he's at and week by week, take a peek and try to evaluate his skill-set to see where and if it fits with what we're doing," Payton said.
EAGLES REPORT: Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz isn't just the top receiving tight ends in the league. He's one of the top receivers, period.
Ertz is 10th in yards (789) and third in receptions (75) after torching Dallas for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches Sunday night.
"He's very fluid, he's obviously a favored target of the quarterback (Carson Wentz) because he's open all the time," Payton said. "He's that hybrid-type tight end/receiver, he's got real good hips, he can get in and out of his cuts, he can leverage you on routes over the middle. You see him do a good job with the seams.
"I think he's a real, real, real natural receiver and has got all those traits that you might describe in a player not at the same position, but the things that we saw when we had Lance Moore, who seemed to always be open. Zach has those traits as a tight end. Inside on the linebackers, red zone, third down – he always presents a clean target and separation that's quarterback friendly."
SPEAKING OF THE QB: Payton also had high praise for Wentz, who has completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,148 yards and 15 touchdowns, with three interceptions. Wentz missed the first two games of the season.
"He extends plays well," Payton said. "Those are the ones that are challenging, because he's strong in the pocket, he's hard to take down. He threw a pass (Sunday night) with someone draped on his arm and wristband, so he's a strong presence, he's athletic, he'll hang on a play and extend a play as well as anyone right now in the league."