With confidence soaring, Saints lineman Andrus Peat comfortable at left guard
METAIRIE — The left side of the Saints offensive line is in a state of flux because of a shoulder injury to tackle Terron Armstead that required surgery last month.
Armstead will miss at least the first half of the season and the Saints will figure out his replacement during training camp. Coach Sean Payton said he’s hopeful that the fill-in will emerge from a competition primarily between veteran Khalif Barnes and rookie first-round draft choice Ryan Ramczyk.
Another option would be to slide over Andrus Peat from left guard — as they did when Armstead was injured and missed nine games last season — but the Saints’ preference is to leave Peat right where he is. Peat has yet to realize the potential the organization saw him when it used the 13th pick in the 2015 draft to select him.
Peat has played both guard spots and left tackle and has started showing signs of settling in at left guard. The Saints would prefer not to mess with appears to be a good thing.
“My confidence is definitely at all-time high now,” Peat said. “I feel good about what I did in (the offseason) and I’m trying to have it carry over through training camp and see the same improvement throughout the season.”
Right tackle Zach Strief can relate to Peat’s experiences, having bounced back and forth among positions during his 12-year career. He said he saw moments during off-season workouts when Peat’s foot work demonstrated a naturalness that hadn’t been there before.
“Settling into a spot 100 percent has changed his approach,” Strief said. “I think he has really detailed his stuff. I would say that (recently) we’ve seen Peat do things that we’ve been trying to get him to do for two years. You see it and then you see it again and you see it again and it’s like, “OK, he’s got it.”
“It’s not as easy as being like, “here do this.” Everyone can do it on air, everyone can do it without a guy across from them, but when your body naturally reacts to a situation, does your body just do it, and his body started doing that (during off-season workouts). I would say some things that are going to make big differences for him. I think he is starting to feel that as well and with that comes a desire to really drive even more when you start feeling close to something.”
Strief said he has experienced “several light-bulb kind of moments” in his career when he suddenly became more comfortable at a new position.
“It’s almost like you have to feel it work correctly to be able to mimic that feeling again,” Strief said. “The reality for us is that it all looks like big movements and big stuff and the difference might be that your knee is four inches farther out than it should be, changes where the weight is in your feet and until you get it in that position you don’t feel it.
“So someone is telling you, do this because you’re going to be stronger, do this because you’re going to be stronger, and you’re never stronger and you’re thinking, I’m doing it, I’m doing it, and then all of a sudden you slot into the correct position and you feel it and you’re like, oh.”
Peat said that what Strief is noticing in him is what Peat has been feeling.
“I definitely feel a difference — just knowing what I’m doing and getting my body in the right position, just having a better knowledge of the game and what I need to do and how I need to do it,” Peat said. “Once you get where, say, your pass feels good and once you get that down you try to replicate it as many times as you can and get the muscle memory down. That’s really the big thing.”
Peat was strictly a left tackle at Stanford and he has had to adjust to the different space within which he works at guard as well as blocking different types of defensive linemen.
“You’re going against a different type of player most of the time,” Peat said. “At guard you have less space and less time to get your hands on guys. You have to throw your hands earlier compared to tackle where you can wait a little and me more patient with it. I’ve really been able to grasp that concept as well as other small things with the position.”
Coach Sean Payton said the Saints know Peat is more comfortable on the left side, so if he were to have to fill in for Armstead again at least he would remain on his preferred side.
“For a lineman,” Strief said, “the biggest thing, to be able to get into a situation and feel what it is that you’re supposed to feel. It’s the first step to making it a repeatable action. Guys are coached to do certain things and they don’t feel and they don’t trust it so they can’t do it. Mentally you can’t do it until you feel it and I think he’s starting to feel it.”
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com 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…