Can the Saints survive the loss of Armstead?

Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints offense huddles up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints offense huddles up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The news of the injury to New Orleans Saints starting left tackle Terron Armstead sent a shock wave down the spines of many Who Dat faithful.

Armstead missed several games last season with injuries. In his absence, an offensive line that bordered on a top 5 product faltered. They still ended up a top 12 group.

Armstead tore his labrum in mini-camp workouts. This labrum, the glenoid labrum, is a part of the shoulder girdle. The head (or ball) of the humerus bone sits in a small capsule in the shoulder “socket”. It is encapsulated by tissue. This tissue makes up part of the labrum. It can be torn by falling badly, a direct blow, or a sudden pull to the arm or shoulder. The tear can be minor and simply require rest and to have it heal itself. Or it can require surgical reattachment of anything from the labrum itself to the tendon connecting your biceps to your shoulder.

At this point, the doctors may not know the full extent of the damage and they may not be able to know until they do the surgery scheduled for Monday. This is why the timetable is broad – 4 to 6 months. If the damage is minor, it’s possible with rehabilitation that Armstead could be available by November. If the biceps tendon has to be reattached or there is other structural damage, he may not play this season.

So that brings up the issues of what’s next and what to do. Armstead just recently signed a multi-year large contract, so releasing him isn’t an option. Though the Saints may today look at the now oft-injured player and question the wisdom of that large deal, the deal has been done. And, to be honest, when healthy, Armstead is a top 6-7 left tackle in this league.

The Saints aren’t super deep even in camp at the position.

They drafted Ryan Ramczyk ostensibly to compete for the right tackle spot and to be the heir apparent to Zach Strief. Ramczyk played left tackle last season at Wisconsin, so it’s likely he would moved over and have every opportunity to earn the starting nod. Beyond him, Andrus Peat flip-flopped between left guard and tackle last season. He filled in for the injured Armstead. But it seemed that Peat’s natural home was guard and he looked much better alongside center Max Unger than out on the island of left tackle.

Senio Kelemete also logged some snaps out on the edge. Kelemete has also seen his share of injury time, so relying on his availability may not be wise. Additionally, he’s much better suited for backup roles at guard with an occasional snap or two at tackle. He shouldn’t play full games at tackle.

Beyond that we’ve also got Khalif Barnes on the roster. Barnes came to us from Oakland last season. He was on and off the roster repeatedly as the Saints are wont to do on a game by game basis. We also have journeyman Bryce Harris who has played some tackle in mini-camp. Originally picked up by Atlanta in 2012 as an undrafted free agent, Harris was subsequently released and picked up by the Saints. He spent three seasons here before going back to Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Miami. He returned to the Saints in May and is a long shot to even make the roster. But with two major injuries along the offensive line and depth being brought into question, Barnes and Harris may stick around long into training camp.

The Saints are not without players who can play the left tackle position. But no one will replace the quality of a Terron Armstead.

It will be interesting to see if they look outside to try and find another body to at least look at in camp. Maybe they add another veteran to allow Ramczyk to mature more slowly. That is if they don’t have great confidence in Barnes, Harris, or Kelemete. It is paramount to keep Drew Brees upright this season and that backside protection is one of the keys.