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Saints' battle of the big men: Andrus Peat vs. Zach Strief at RT

The most fascinating battle on the New Orleans Saints' offensive line this summer will be at right tackle, where first-round draft choice Andrus Peat will try to unseat 10th-year veteran Zach Strief.

That will be a tall order, since Strief has arguably been the Saints’ most consistent offensive lineman over the past two years. And Peat got off to a slow start in OTAs and minicamp -- in part because he wasn’t allowed to join the team until after Stanford’s academic year ended. Offensive line coach Bret Ingalls said Peat was “behind the 8-ball” a little bit in terms of conditioning -- but he stressed the real test will come in training camp once the pads come on.

Strief, 31, has readily admitted that he knows the 6-foot-7, 316-pound rookie will take his job eventually. But he said he feels great and will continue to try and push that off for as long as possible.

Here’s a closer look at the offensive line as I continue to break down the Saints’ roster battles position by position leading up to the start of training camp. Players officially report today at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, with the first practice Thursday morning.

Position: Offensive line

53-man roster projection: OT Terron Armstead, OT Zach Strief, OT Andrus Peat, OT Sean Hickey, G Jahri Evans, C Max Unger, G/C Tim Lelito, G/C Senio Kelemete

Missing the cut: OT Bryce Harris, OT Nick Becton, G Mike McGlynn, G/C Mike Golic Jr., G/T Antonio Johnson G Cyril Lemon, G Cole Manhart

Analysis: Most of the other starters appear set -- but they all have something to prove. New center Unger became a centerpiece of the Saints’ offseason roster overhaul when the Saints acquired him as part of the Jimmy Graham trade to Seattle. Can he make anywhere near the same impact protecting Drew Brees as Graham would have made catching TDs from him?

Third-year guard Lelito has been a very good backup. But he needs to prove he’s ready to lock down a starting job at his “natural position” after he failed to win the starting center job last year.

Veteran Evans made his sixth Pro Bowl last year, but he’s started to show inconsistency as a pass-protector over the past couple of years. The Saints need him to prove he’s still got some prime years left.

And third-year left tackle Armstead is a supremely-gifted athlete with the potential to be the best of this bunch. Is this the year he makes that leap?

More than anything, the Saints need all of those guys to stay healthy since the depth is pretty underwhelming. Veterans Harris and McGlynn have both struggled in recent years. So I went with less-experienced backups Kelemete and Hickey on my first 53-man roster projection.

The Saints like Kelemete, and it’s not out of the question that he can compete for a starting job. But his big push this summer has been to get comfortable as their backup center (Lelito’s old role), which has continued to be a work in progress.

I went with Hickey as this year’s sleeper undrafted rookie because he was one of the more highly-rated UDFAs coming out of Syracuse and showed versatility playing guard and tackle during OTAs and minicamp. Even the Saints won’t know what they have in these guys until the pads come on, though.