WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Protecting Drew Brees’ blind side is getting easier for Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead’s job, though, started much faster in 2013, part of a late-season NFL debut for the rookie out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“Hearing the terminology from Drew — my first snap, I could’ve sworn he was speaking Chinese or Spanish or something,” Armstead, smiling, said last week.
With four NFL starts (including two playoff games) past him, Armstead is poised to showcase the improvements he’s made since his first NFL start Dec. 22 at Carolina when he gave up two sacks.
JEFF SINER/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/MCTNew Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead (72) is becoming more comfortable during his second season with the team.
“It’s amazing some of the things he can do,” veteran center Jonathan Goodwin said. “For him to come in at the end of the season last year and start in crunch time, that says a lot about him.”
Here at Saints training camp at The Greenbrier Resort, Armstead is earning kudos from Brees and the Saints defense for his improved football, work against the pass rush and his understanding of the game. He’s fine-tuning his technique, learning from veterans like Goodwin and right tackle Zach Strief, from blitz pickups to hand placement.
This offseason, Armstead spent time one day working out with former Saints great Willie Roaf, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who played in New Orleans from 1993-2001.
“It was more mental, but we got out and took a few sets,” Armstead said. “He still can move. He’s about 360 (pounds) and still can move. It’s crazy.”
Armstead entered the lineup better at run blocking than pass protection, one of the reasons why the Saints improved their rushing attack last last season.
“I think in a short period of time — Carolina and then on to the next week (Tampa Bay) — you saw a rookie player begin to emerge and by the time we were into the postseason, you began to see a player that was playing with confidence and now clearly you are seeing that,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He knows what to do.”
The Saints are, again, hoping to find better balance with their rushing game and second-ranked passing offense from 2013. Mark Ingram is healthy, and second-year pro Khiry Robinson is ready to push for playing time. Also, Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet will earn playing time.
During Saturday’s Black and Gold scrimmage, Armstead gave up one sack to outside linebacker Junior Galette.
“He’s upset about the one he gave up on me, but hey, I do what I do, too,” Galette said.
Still, Galette said Armstead is already one of the best tackles he’s faced. And he has the best feet of any tackle.
“He still has a lot of room for improvement and so do I, but man it’s iron sharpening iron,” Galette said. “If I feel like I had a rough day, I could say, ‘Hey, this guy’s pretty good too. He’s one of the better tackles.”
Brees was sacked 37 times last season.