Entering his seventh season with the Saints, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb returns to lead an offensive line that set a franchise record by allowing only thirteen sacks last season. Stinchcomb is excited about the successes of last season's unit but determined to improve upon them. He said, "I'm very proud looking back on the record we set last season, but I'm focused on what's going on right now. We're looking forward to this season."
Stinchcomb believes that a key factor for the line's excellent pass blocking is the time the unit has spent together. He continued, "This group has been together for three years, which is invaluable to an offensive line because of the chemistry aspect. Also, we can recall situations from the past that we've been through together, and we feel comfortable leaning on each other."
Moreover, the line's experiences together have made them more than co-workers as they've become a close group of friends. When asked about the difference between this year's line and the previous groups he's played on, Stinchcomb remarked that their friendship beyond the football field translates to better play on the field. He said, "We're a very tight group of guys, which stands out to me. When we're on the field, we can rely on that."
Stinchcomb's steady veteran presence is important to the unit's chemistry as he has taken on a leadership role for the team because of his extensive time with the Saints. When asked if he considered himself a team leader, Stinchomb responded, "I'd like to think of myself as one for the offensive line. However, we have all been here together so we don't need such labels."
However, for all of their success in pass blocking, the unit had many struggles in run blocking. The Saints ranked 28th in the NFL with only 99.6 yards per game and had trouble especially in short-yardage situations throughout the season. Stinchcomb does not shy away from these statistics but embraces them as a challenge for the unit to face.
He said, "We must earn being a good running offensive line and have to give coach confidence in the running game. We're putting a heavy emphasis on running because we want to improve on that. Converting third and short situations is crucial to winning football games. We need to keep our mental focus on execution during those situations in order to succeed."
Head Coach Sean Payton remarked that the team is three days away from short yardage installation packages, which will be a key part of camp. These packages will be necessary for the offensive line to shed a finesse reputation that follows it around the league. Stinchcomb said, "I can see why we are called a finesse line and it's our job to change that reputation and to earn a new one."
The opening practices of this year's training camp has presented a new challenge to Stinchcomb and the offensive line as they are constantly being challenged by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' various schemes and aggressive mentality. Stinchcomb said, "The defenses are very complex, but it is making us that much better. We have to constantly be on alert for the different looks that they are showing. In the past, we used to do sessions of blitz pickup, but it seems like we are always doing it because of the constant blitzing that Coach Williams has implemented. Seeing the number of schemes we see now will help us on game day."
This season will bring a whole new group of challenges for the offensive line, but Stinchcomb points to two traits as the constant answers to the search for success for an offensive line.
He said, "Being on the offensive line is about will and grit on every play of every game, and we need to bring that."