Saints training camp countdown Part 3: The offensive line

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Calvin Throckmorton (76) and Ethan Greenidge (73) and Landon Young (67
Jun 2, 2022; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints Calvin Throckmorton (76) and Ethan Greenidge (73) and Landon Young (67) run drills during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility (Photo: Stephen Lew).

METAIRIE – The New Orleans Saints’ success or failure in 2022 likely will hinge on the offensive line as much as any other position group.

The line has a chance to be really good, but it also features one of the biggest questions going into training camp and the preseason: Will the left tackle position be in good hands?

That position will attract as much scrutiny as any other during training camp and the preseason.

The Saints used their second No. 1 draft choice (No. 19 overall) in the draft in April to select Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa to ultimately replace long-time starter Terron Armstead, who signed with Miami in the biggest free-agent loss of the off-season.

The drafting of Penning that high suggests the Saints weren’t confident that any of the other candidates was likely to be an adequate successor to Armstead.

So the expectation is that Penning will be the starter sooner rather than later, perhaps as soon as the September 11 season opener at Atlanta.

But that’s no guarantee.

The Saints have veteran James Hurst as another option if Penning isn’t ready. Hurst started 15 games last season because of injuries to starters, giving him 64 starts in his eight seasons.

So one of the most important developments this summer will be whether Penning develops quickly enough to start or whether Hurst will be the starter at least to start the season.

In Armstead’s absence, right tackle Ryan Ramczyk becomes the leader of the line. He has a first-hand understand of Penning’s challenge, having stepped in as a rookie starter right away after being a No. 1 draft choice on 2017.

“Obviously the playbook is a lot to learn,” Ramczyk said. “It’s a ton thrown at you right away. Secondly is the speed of the game. Everyone is an elite athlete at this level. So it takes time to climatize to that.”

Ramczyk noted that Penning has made “not a lot of mental errors on film.”

“He’s got all the physical attributes to be a really good player in this league,” Ramczyk added.

The three weeks of OTAs and the recent mini-camp gave Penning a chance to work on his fundamentals and get a taste of battling NFL defensive linemen, though he has yet to work in pads.

“In college we didn’t spend a ton of time with (technique and footwork) it,” Penning said. “It was more kind of basic, now we’re getting more detailed about it.

“Just getting reps against NFL players is going to help a ton. Just getting reps and reps really slows the game down. I’m trying to get used to it and a get a feel for what NFL pass rushers are really like.”

As for Ramczyk himself, he missed seven games last season after missing just one in his first four seasons combined.

“There were some complications in my knee that I was trying to resolve last year,” he said. “I’ve done a really good job of strengthening the muscles around my knee. It’s feeling a lot better and I’m feeling a lot more confident going into this year.”

The next-biggest storyline on the line is how well do fourth-year center Eric McCoy and third-year right guard Cesar Ruiz develop?

McCoy has started 44 games in three years, but missed five games last season due to injury.

His absence contributed to Ruiz bouncing back and forth between center and guard. The Saints hope he’ll become a fixture at right guard, but his development has been relatively slow.

“It was interesting last year going from guard to center and back to guard,” Ruiz said. “But that’s what I signed up for.”

Ruiz said one of the keys to improvement that he has focused on is “not to let little things affect me so one play doesn’t affect the rest of the game.”

Andrus Peat is entrenched at left guard as he begins his eighth season, but he has missed 29 games in his career.

So depth is exceptionally important on the offensive line because history shows that it’s common for multiple starters to miss multiple games due to injury in any given year.

After Hurst, the Saints’ top reserve was former LSU center/guard Will Clapp, but he signed with the Chargers as a free agent.

The team is hopeful that second-year tackle Landon Young can step into a significant role as a backup after missing six games due to injury last season.

The Saints do have experience in adapting to change on the offensive line due to Armstead and Peat having had injury-plagued careers in addition to injuries that limited Ramczyk and McCoy last season.

“In the game of football things are always changing, there are moving parts all the time,” Ramczyk said. “Terron’s presence is missed, of course. He was a great athlete, great teammate, great all-around person. (But) we’re going to be just fine.”

Offensive line
Projected starters: LT James Hurst/Trevor Penning, LG Andrus Peat, C Erik McCoy, RG Cesar Ruiz, RT Ryan Ramczyk.
Arrivals: Penning, OL Sage Doxtater, OL Lewis Kidd, OL Derek Schweiger, T Khalique Washington
Other returning players: T Ethan Greenidge, T Jerald Hawkins, OL Forrest Lamp, OL Calvin Throckmorton, T Landon Young
Notable departures: T Terron Armstead, G/C Will Clapp, T Jordan Mills, T Caleb Benonoch, G James Carpenter
Roster spots: 8-9

To read all of the pre-training camp analysis on the countdown, click here.

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Les East

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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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