WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (AP) On paper, Terron Armstead is a second-year pro out of a small school with rather limited NFL experience for a starting left tackle.
The New Orleans Saints see him not only as their best bet to keep Drew Brees safe from jarring blindside hits, but as a player who's not far from being viewed among the best at his high-pressure position.
Take it from outside linebacker Junior Galette, who last season racked up a career-high 12 sacks and has been trying to hone his skills against Armstead during training camp.
''He's a beast. I'm giving him everything I've got,'' Galette said. ''Going into my fifth year in the league, he has the best feet by far'' of any offensive tackle.
''Obviously, he still has a lot of room for improvement and so do I, but man, it's iron sharpening iron,'' Galette continued. ''If I feel like I had a rough day, I could say, `Hey, this guy is pretty good too. He's one of the better tackles.'''
The Saints selected 6-foot-5, 304-pound Armstead out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the third round of the 2013 draft. More than his size, the Saints like his athleticism. He has exceptional foot speed for an offensive lineman, running the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds.
''From a talent perspective, it's off the charts,'' veteran right tackle Zach Strief said. ''He actually looks strange on tape. He is so much faster than what you're used to'' seeing from a player at that position.
Armstead had an inauspicious debut when started for the first time at Carolina in New Orleans' penultimate regular-season game last season. He replaced Charles Brown, a 2010 second-round pick out of Southern California, who had been benched and has since left in free agency.
Armstead was matched up against star defensive end Greg Hardy, who sacked Brees three times. Twice, Armstead was called for false starts. New Orleans lost, 17-13.
Yet Armstead seemed to be more comfortable in his second start, not allowing a sack or committing any pre-snap penalties. He also drew positive reviews for his two playoff starts.
''I take it as a blessing, really, to get thrown into the fire like that,'' Armstead said. ''They say the game slows down. It's just knowing plays. Hearing the terminology from Drew. My first snap, I could've sworn he was speaking Chinese or Spanish or something. Just letting it slow down, having veterans like Zach Strief, (right guard) Jahri Evans just being with you and helping you break down film and those type of things, it's getting easy.''
Armstead also seized a chance this offseason to learn from the best left tackle in Saints history, Hall-of-Famer Willie Roaf.
The pair got together in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where Roaf is from.
''I had a few questions like, where does he carry his hands? What's he looking at? Those types of things, trying to pick his brain a little bit,'' Armstead said. ''It was more mental, but we got out and took a few sets. He still can move.''
Brees, who stands to take a beating whenever his left tackle falters, doesn't sound too concerned about Armstead's ability to protect him.
''You love everything you see,'' Brees said. ''You see guys that when there is a big challenge ahead of them, you sense some fear, you sense some nerves. What I see with him is intensity and confidence and that is what you love to see in a left tackle - ready for any type of challenge.''
NOTES: Brees, who sat out Saturday's scrimmage with a strained oblique muscle on the left side of his abdomen, remained out of practice on Monday afternoon, but was present on the sideline, did some sprints and signed autographs. Coach Sean Payton described his condition as day to day and said it should not affect Brees' availability for the regular season. ''We'll make sure it's something that can't get aggravated again,'' Payton said. ''When you look at what he does, on a daily basis with regards to torqueing his chest throwing the football, you just got to be smart. ... It's the type of thing though, if you try to all of a sudden force it back, you re-aggravate it.''... CB Champ Bailey, who was absent from practice since late last week with an undisclosed injury, attended Monday's practice but was limited to conditioning work on a stationary bicycle.
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