I don’t think many people outside of Saints camp appreciate just how talented Armstead is, because nagging knee injuries have plagued him in the past two years. And now they really won’t get to appreciate it, with a torn labrum suffered in Wednesday’s practice expected to sideline him for four to six months.
It's unclear yet whether Armstead could return late in the season. But the Saints don't have to make any decisions on him anytime soon. (He will be eligible for the physically unable to perform list because the injury occurred before training camp, so they won't have to use the injured reserve designation on him.)
This should’ve been the year when Armstead made his first Pro Bowl, paving the way for Brees, Thomas, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram in one of the NFL’s most buzzworthy offenses. Peterson said many times that the Saints’ offensive line is one of the things that drew him to New Orleans.
Instead, this injury has now zapped a lot of that buzz out of this offseason.
The Saints are long overdue for a breakout season after three straight 7-9 finishes. But it feels like they can’t catch a break this year.
First, standout center Max Unger needed foot surgery that is expected to sideline him until late August. Then came the news that standout defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s career is in jeopardy because of a heart issue.
But there are a few silver linings for the Saints.
For one thing, their offense always seems to find a way -- whether they’re replacing star skill-position players such as Reggie Bush or Marques Colston or stud offensive linemen such as Jahri Evans or Armstead.
Armstead played in only seven games last year because of those knee and quad issues and the Saints still led the NFL in total yardage and passing yardage.
The other silver lining is that New Orleans has been stocking up on young offensive tackles in recent years, drafting Stanford’s Andrus Peat with the 13th overall pick in 2015, then drafting Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd pick this year.
It's likely that Peat will slide over from left guard to left tackle, as that was his natural position in high school and college -- and that’s the position he played pretty effectively last year when Armstead was injured.
Ramczyk also played left tackle in college. But the plan was for him to move to right tackle in New Orleans, where he could eventually replace veteran starter Zach Strief. And Ramczyk hasn’t been fully participating in practice yet because of a hip surgery of his own.
Still, the 6-foot-6, 314-pound Ramczyk is a first-round pick at left tackle. So if he flashes potential during training camp, he could wind up in the role. And that would allow everyone else to stay put across the rest of the line: Peat at left guard, Unger at center, newly signed free-agent prize Larry Warford at right guard, Strief at right tackle.
It’s also possible the Saints could kick the tires on some veteran free agents, but pickings are pretty slim at this point.
The last silver lining is that New Orleans still has time to figure all of this out, with six weeks until training camp kicks off and nearly three months until the Sept. 11 season opener on Monday Night Football at Minnesota.
Armstead won’t be there, but the buzz might return by then.