When the Saints’ annual Training Camp Black and Gold Scrimmage had ended yesterday; emerging superstar LB Junior Galette during a press conference with the assembled media, referenced the young man with whom he had been facing off against during that battle. “He’s a beast,” Galette said. “I gave him everything I had today. He has the best feet of any tackle I’ve faced. I put him up there with the best in the league”. That same young man, now in his second-year as a left tackle, is the most talked about offensive player in training camp other than rookie sensation Brandin Cooks. Come along and take a little trip with me — as we look at what has been the rapid rise of Terron Armstead.
The 6’5, 304 lb. Armstead possesses an athletic ability that has earned him a reputation as being a physical “freak of nature”. After all, this is the same individual who ran the fastest 40-yard dash time by an offensive lineman in the entire history of the NFL scouting combine (4.71 seconds) ; and registered a vertical leap of 34.5 inches. Armstead has said that the professional game quickly started to slow down for him with each passing start he made at the end of last season. It’s safe to say that based on a little over a week’s worth of Training Camp, that fact is undeniable. It’s also GREAT news, when considering that Armstead is now entrusted with protecting the “blindside” of future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, who will turn 36 in January.
Armstead is already responsible for one the biggest highlight plays thus far at Greenbrier. On a designed screen-pass to Cooks for a touchdown earlier in the week; it was clearly visible on the replay of the film that you can see Armstead helped clear Cooks’ path with a dominant seal block against safety Rafael Bush (dominant, as in TRAMPLING over him). Part of the credit for that play and for that overall improvement in his game actually goes to Hall of Fame former Saints OT Willie Roaf.
Roaf is a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas; which of course is where Armstead attended college at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff for four years from 2009 -2012. This past off-season, Roaf served as a mentor of sorts to Armstead, helping him to hone his craft and teaching him the finer points of being an NFL offensive tackle — including the crucial mental aspects of the game.
Clearly, the apprenticeship has paid off for Armstead, who was the 3rd Round draft choice of the Saints in 2013. Things haven’t always gone smoothly for Armstead, though. He came into the League as a rookie last year who was fundamentally unsound, and it showed in the action that he saw (it’s been said that he couldn’t even get the basic 3-point stance down at first). In his first ever start against Carolina (in place of the much-maligned veteran Charles Brown), Armstead had problems with positioning and hand technique (or “slow hands”) and got EATEN ALIVE by Panthers All-Pro DE Greg Hardy. However, he began showing the following week against Tampa Bay in the 2013 season finale at home, that the learning curve wasn’t as steep for him then previously thought. By the season’s end in the Divisional Playoff game at Seattle, Armstead played the best game of his short career just three weeks later.
Saints and NFL analyst Walter “Deuce” Windham, with whom I am the co-host of his weekly BlogTalk Radio program “Who Dat Confessional” every Monday night, is one who has been keenly observing Armstead’s rapid rise and is excited about the promising future ahead for him and the Saints going forward. Windham shared with me some examples from Armstead’s progression at the end of last year that demonstrated how quickly the rookie had began to assimilate to the nuances of the pro game, before the team’s eventual end of the 2013 campaign in the Divisional Playoffs at Seattle. Windham notes that Armstead’s adaptation was clearly evident on this TD run by Pierre Thomas in the regular season finale at home against Tampa Bay, and again on a 25 yard gain by RB Khiry Robinson:
“One area of play where Terron CAN use his size and strength effectively is the run game, and he showed some VERY nice moves there.”
“Now our red zone offense all year had struggled in the red zone because we weren’t able to effectively run the ball. Terron takes Adrian Clayborn (who has almost 70 tackles and 6 sacks last year, which shows he is an effective run stopper) and moves him 4 feet off the line. He creates a huge hole and PT is able to walk into the end zone untouched.”
“Now, do you want to see that incredible athleticism? I mean plays like this just make me giddy. I love these type of O-lineman. Watch Armstead attack and just push this LB completely out of the play for FIFTEEN YARDS. It was like I was watching “The Blind Side”, Windham said while laughing.
Windham also gave me this picture, a ‘screencap’ of the Robinson play (with head coach Sean Payton visibly looking on from the Saints sideline at the bottom right corner of the photo) , to clearly illustrate the seal block that Armstead got on the Buccanners LB.
As you can see, as the Saints 2013 campaign drew to a close; Armstead obviously had begun improving with every game and every snap. It’s fairly evident that the improvement continues to grow with each and every bit more of experience and repetition.
“I think in a short period of time, Carolina and then on to the next week (Tampa Bay), you saw a rookie player begin to emerge and by the time we were into the postseason, you began to see a player that was playing with confidence and now clearly you are seeing that. He knows what to do. He is very athletic and to his credit, has made the adjustment and done a great job competing. That has been a great sign.” -Saints head coach Sean Payton, speaking about Terron Armstead during the post-practice press conference at Greenbrier on July 31, 2014
As far as Armstead’s future is concerned, I don’t think that there’s any doubt that this young man is destined to become a very, very special player. He’s easily the best offensive lineman the Saints have had since the departure of Jermon Bushrod to the Bears; and this will probably get me in trouble (as if some of my previous predictions already haven’t before) for saying it, but with all of the physical gifts that he has additionally to go with becoming fundamentally sound, he just may become (potentially) the best offensive lineman the Saints have had since Willie Roaf himself.
Even Payton likely has had that same thought, though he favors to exercise a bit of caution before going as far as someone like me will, when he noted in that same press conference this past Thursday that: “We are not ready to put him in Canton (Pro Football Hall of Fame) yet, but he is very athletic and I would agree, he has a lot of the traits you look for.” While Payton may be hesitant to heap too much praise on Armstead, there’s no doubt he has to be pleasantly pleased to have gotten a future perennial All-Pro for only a 3rd Round pick.
Armstead certainly is a young player whose career is trending upward, and it’s quite remarkable to see just how he has managed to have taken such a tremendous leap forward in such a short period. From being a rookie that had every fan actually clamoring for the return to the line-up of the previously scorned Charles Brown, up until now where some Who Dats on Twitter are ready to nominate him for sainthood (the religious kind) ; it’s a pretty incredible point in time at the moment — of the rapid rise of Terron Armstead…..