In the year 1869, when the first football game was played between Rutgers and Princeton, a 12-year old boy from Milford, Ohio watched in awe as players fearlessly collided on the soggy field. He and his father had traveled all night to watch the “new game.” These were not mere men, these were gladiators. He clutched his father’s hand and whispered: “One day I will be a right tackle, dad.” The boy was Zachary David Strief and he still plays football to this day.
Ok so Zach Strief is only 33 years old, which surprised me because: doesn’t it feel like he’s been with the Saints for about 148 years? It does! Yet, Strief continues to be a mainstay at the right tackle position for the Saints. Among 78 graded tackles, Pro Football Focus had Strief ranked as the 14th best in the NFL in 2016. Strief, ever the model of consistency was ranked 14th in both pass and run blocking as well.
How long can Strief keep this up? Well consider the fact that since 2011, the Saints’ right tackle has started every game in which he has played (85 games). During that span, Strief has missed only 11 games and since the 2013 season he has missed only 2 of 64 games. What these numbers tell me is that Zach Strief is a durable player that the New Orleans Saints can count on for at least two more seasons. On the other hand, they also indicate that the treads on Strief’s tires are likely on the verge of being completely worn out and certainly the Saints should be ready for the wheels to come off entirely any time now.
The question becomes whether the Saints have Strief’s heir apparent on the roster or not. Could it be Andrus Peat, who in his second pro season in 2016 showed that he may not be a complete bust as a first-round pick? Could it be…gasp: Terron Armstead, since the Saints seemed to really like what Peat did at left tackle while Armstead was hurt for most of last season? Let the wild speculation begin.
For the time being, the Saints don’t really need immediate help at right tackle, where Zach Strief has been a rock for well over six seasons now.
On a crisp, bright football morning in 1869, a young boy from Ohio dared to dream. A century and a half later, he still excels at right tackle for the New Orleans Saints.