METAIRIE, La. – If New Orleans Saints rookie Terron Armstead is supposed to be overwhelmed by being thrust into the lineup for his first NFL start this week at Carolina, then he’s not playing along. The third-round draft pick from Arkansas-Pine Bluff stressed that this is the opportunity he’s been working toward all season.
“I really don't look at it as too much pressure,” said Armstead, who has not played a snap on offense this season, appearing in only four games on special teams. “It's what I came here to do; to play. It hasn't happened until now, so I just have to take advantage of my opportunity. … I've never stopped competing since training camp.
"I love it. I love the challenge of it, and that's why I play football.”
Armstead said he has become good friends with recently demoted starter Charles Brown. But he said they’re both competitors.
“So I’m sure Charles is still shooting to get his spot, the same way I've been fighting to get the spot,” Armstead said. “So we’re still competing against each other and pushing each other.”
Armstead (6 foot 5, 304 pounds) said he felt comfortable in his first practice with the first team Wednesday - once he get used to quarterback Drew Brees' cadence, which he said is a little faster than backup Luke McCown's. Armstead said his biggest emphasis dating back to summer practices has been refining his technique – putting in extra time before and after practice to work on all the technical aspects that go with playing on the offensive line in the NFL.
Veteran right tackle Zach Strief said that’s the biggest adjustment for any NFL linemen, since technique isn't as important in college, where linemen can generally rely more on their natural physicality and athleticism.
Armstead certainly has plenty of that. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash by an offensive lineman in the history of the NFL scouting combine (4.71 seconds), and recorded the highest vertical leap of any offensive lineman this year (34.5 inches). And those dazzling workouts backed up his impressive performance in the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game, which together solidified his spot as a highly touted third-round draft pick.
“What’s great is I think we've seen him constantly improve every week,” Strief said. “You can watch it on scout team going against our best guys. And he’s been practicing against very good competition, and I think he’s ready for it. …
“I think everyone here has plenty of confidence in him. I think Terron, sooner or later, was gonna be a starter in this league. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think his talent level is easily high enough for him to be not just a starter but a good starter in this league. Look, just like anybody, there’s gonna be things that happen to Terron because he’s young. But at the end of the day I think we have more than enough confidence that Terron will be a good player for us.”
Brees expressed the same confidence.
“I honestly won't think twice about it other than making sure communication is really, really good,” Brees said, explaining the need to make sure Armstead is on top of all the on-field adjustments. “You've got to trust him, trust that he knows his job, he's going to do his job. And then you just roll."