Armstead Poised To Win Battle For Left Tackle In New Orleans
By Greg Barber
Since the departure of Saints LT Jermon Bushrod this past offseason, the lingering question of who will start at left tackle has remained. Despite Bushrod not being considered an elite left tackle, he was a solid player overall who did help keep an elite quarterback in Drew Brees upright. At the same time, I was prepared to see him leave instead of watching the team mistakenly overpay for his services.
As of right now, there are three front-runners for the vacant position, each of whom possess a downside that is as large as their potential. All three of the players have limited experience at the left tackle position in the NFL. This definitely puts a lot of pressure on the front office and coaching staff to justify letting Bushrod go and to prove that he will not be missed.
Here are my viewpoints on the three candidates and their chances of starting Week 1:
1. Terron Armstead: Height: 6-5; Weight: 304; College: Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Experience: Rookie
Armstead is a third-round pick that really impressed all of the coaches and scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. However, that does not mean a thing when the live bodies are flying all over the field. With that being said, Armstead will still be starting at left tackle when Week 1 arrives.
Why is that you may ask?
I believe Armstead will learn everything he needs to know on a game-by-game basis. This puts him in a position to learn the playbook and protections in small doses. Look for Armstead to settle in and have a much stronger command of the position as the season progresses.
I also believe that drafting Armstead was a direct message to the other two candidates, Charles Brown and Jason Smith, that the team does not trust them enough to hand either the starting job.
2. Charles Brown: Height: 6-5; Weight: 297; College: USC; Experience: 4th Season
Brown is considered to be the leading candidate by most experts to be the Week 1 starter, but I disagree with this assessment. Brown will not win the position battle because he is injury prone, which will not instill complete trust in his coaches if he can't be counted on to play each week. If Armstead fails to grasp the playbook, Brown without a doubt will be the starter but with all of the nagging injuries he has suffered, I believe the coaching staff just does not trust him to be there.
3. Jason Smith: Height: 6-5; Weight: 308; College: Baylor; Experience: 5th Season
Smith has been in the NFL for four years and has had a less than stellar career so far. Saints coach Sean Payton obviously saw some potential in Smith to offer him an opportunity to make the team even though he had failed with other teams in the past.
On the other hand, I do think there is a spot for Smith at the right tackle position. I have been an advocate of upgrading at right tackle for some time now. Smith played right tackle during his time in St. Louis before moving over to New Orleans and it just seems interesting to me that someone who played exclusively at the right tackle position for the majority of his career is a leading candidate to play left tackle now. The conspiracy theorist in me says that Smith was brought in to play right tackle all along but the move was not advertised in that way in order to prevent any drama with current right tackle Zach Strief.
With all of that being said, whether it happens Week 1, Week 5, Week 16 or even next season sometime, Terron Armstead will become the starting left tackle for the Saints. I decided to make my prediction now before the Week 1 roster is finalized, so let's see how well I do with this positional battle as I will be making predictions on other position battles in the near future. Stay tuned Saints fans and Who Dat!