Payton 'extremely encouraged' by Armstead

METAIRIE, La. – Rookie Terron Armstead will “absolutely” remain the New Orleans Saints’ starting left tackle, according to coach Sean Payton.

Armstead struggled in his NFL debut in Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, allowing 2.5 sacks and committing two false start penalties -- all in the first half. But Armstead and Payton both said after the game that they were encouraged by the way he settled into the role as the game went on. And Payton’s praise was even stronger after watching the tape on Monday.

“Listen, I’ve read a handful of different articles about his performance,” Payton said. “Certainly there are growing pains, but there are a lot of things that he did very well. I think as a staff, going through the tape now twice, I was extremely encouraged by the way he played.”

Armstead’s struggles were more obvious to the naked eye than his successes.

He was beaten badly twice for sacks by the Panthers’ standout pass-rusher, Greg Hardy -- once late in the first quarter and once in the early second quarter. Both false start penalties also came in the second quarter. And he was pushed back again by end Mario Addison for a half-sack late in the second quarter -- though the entire pocket collapsed on that one as quarterback Drew Brees was caught holding the ball too long.

On the plus side for Armstead, he went practically unnoticed during the second half -- which included 22 drop-backs by the quarterback.

The Saints gave up a total of six sacks in the game, but only one in the second half -- on an all-out blitz by the Panthers that flooded the right side of New Orleans’ line.

Armstead, a third-round draft pick from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, hadn’t played a snap on offense all season before Sunday -- appearing in only four games on special teams. But Payton turned to the athletic rookie after veteran Charles Brown struggled in Week 15 against the St. Louis Rams.