One of the most intriguing position battles on the New Orleans Saints offense this year will be the battle between guard and tackle.
As in, which position will become the landing spot for Andrus Peat, the Saints’ top draft pick in 2015, who is hoping to find a permanent home in the lineup in Year 2.
The Saints still view the massive 6-foot-7, 316-pounder as a tackle, first and foremost. And they’ll probably give Peat every chance to beat out veteran Zach Strief for the starting right tackle job this year.
But the need might be greater at guard after the Saints released six-time Pro Bowl lineman Jahri Evans in February, then failed to add any guards in free agency or the draft.
Peat, who played left tackle in college, rotated into the mix at guard late last season – in part to get him some playing time the coaching staff believe he had earned on the practice field -- and in some spot starts at tackle. The results were mixed, though, and coach Sean Payton said late last year that Peat was still a better fit at tackle.
A full offseason could help Peat’s comfort level at all positions, though.
“He could [factor in at guard],” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said of Peat after this year's draft. “We’re going to do our best to get our five best offensive linemen on the field. I think Sean and our staff do a great job of that.”
The guard position rarely gets any love in the NFL. But by neglecting it in the spring, the Saints have suddenly turned guard into one of the most intriguing positions on the roster heading into the summer.
As of now, Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete should be penciled into the starting lineup. Loomis said it’s possible the Saints will consider adding a veteran into the mix at some point. And the Saints loaded up on some top undrafted free agents – including two first-team All-Americans (North Carolina guard Landon Turner and Michigan State center Jack Allen).
Here is a breakdown of New Orleans’ unofficial depth chart on offense and special teams heading into this weekend’s rookie minicamp:
FB: Austin Johnson, Sione Houma
LG: Tim Lelito, Cyril Lemon
C: Max Unger, Jack Allen, Marcus Henry
RG: Senio Kelemete, Landon Turner, Joe Cheek
RT: Zach Strief, Andrus Peat, Avery Young
LS: Justin Drescher, Chris Highland