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2017 New Orleans Saints Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

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The Saints offensive line surpassed the expectations of many in 2016. Can they do it again?

NFL: New Orleans Saints-Minicamp Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Training camps are beginning throughout the entire National Football League, and the New Orleans Saints have returned "home". After spending half of their preseason camp at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V. in each of the last three years, the Saints will conduct their entire camp at the team facilities in Metairie this summer. The heat and humidity of the Louisiana summer might affect the group in our focus today more so than perhaps other positions.

Canal Street Chronicles continues our training camp positional previews, today by looking at the big nasties on the Saints that don't usually get the headlines.

(*) denotes rookie

Offensive Line

Camp Roster: Terron Armstead (T), Andrus Peat (G/T), Zach Strief (T), Ryan Ramczyk* (T), Bryce Harris (T), Khalif Barnes (T), Larry Warford (G), Landon Turner (G), Senio Kelemete (G/C), John Fullington (G), Josh LeRibeus (G), Chris Watt (G), Max Unger (C), Jack Allen (C), Cameron Tom (C)

Offseason Losses: Jahri Evans (free agent), Tim Lelito (free agent)

Offseason Additions: Larry Warford (free agent), Ryan Ramczyk (draft)

The major news here are the injuries. Max Unger underwent surgery on his injured foot from last season early in the offseason that should allow him to be ready in time for the regular season. The concern is if Unger's injury will take even longer to heal, or will limit his effectiveness throughout the season. When healthy, Unger is a Pro Bowl caliber player, and one of the better centers in the league.

The Saints absorbed an even bigger blow when their star left tackle Terron Armstead suffered a torn labrum during team activities in June. Armstead, one of the best young tackles in the game, will miss until late October at the very least, but could realistically not return until December, if at all in 2017. This is a major loss of not only a very talented player, but on perhaps the most important line position of left tackle. The question of how the Saints will replace Armstead is one of the team's major questions as they enter training camp.

The likely answer is hopefully Ramczyk, the Saints second of two 1st round draft choices this spring. Ramczyk was arguably the best offensive lineman available in the draft, and was a star left tackle at Wisconsin. He missed most of the team's offseason activities while rehabbing a hip injury, but will reportedly be healthy as the team enters camp.

Another option is Andrus Peat, another former 1st round pick. Peat struggled mightily during his rookie year of 2015, even causing some to label him as a draft bust. Peat had a far better sophomore campaign when the Saints installed him as the starter at left guard, where he seemed to excel. He did fill in capably at left tackle last season as well, when Armstead missed a bulk of the season with leg and hip injuries.

Veteran tackles Khalif Barnes and Bryce Harris have gone from players perhaps on the roster bubble, to now perhaps playing a vital role in the success of the Saints this season. Harris is familiar with the system, having played with the Saints from 2012-14, and Barnes was signed by New Orleans last season (and subsequently dropped and re-added a bunch of times) after an accomplished career with the Oakland Raiders.

Many were preparing veteran right tackle Zach Strief for the scrap heap entering 2016, after he struggled mightily during the '14 and '15 seasons. Strief rebounded to be one of the Saints most consistent linemen in 2016. The 12-year veteran continues to be a warrior, and will go down as one of the better linemen in franchise history. Warford may prove to be the Saints best free agent acquisition of the offseason. The 26-year-old Warford was a four-year starter in Detroit before signing with New Orleans, and is just now coming into the prime of his career. He will be the starter at right guard between Unger and Strief, filling the big shoes of future Saints Hall of Famer Jahri Evans.

Senio Kelemete and Landon Turner will be counted on to provide quality depth. Kelemete's strength is his versatility, he has given the Saints quality starts at nearly every spot along the offensive line over his three years with New Orleans. Turner saw some limited action with the team last year, and the hope is that he will continue to develop into a quality lineman. Tom, Fullington, Watt, Allen, and LeRibeus will all get close looks in camp and the second halves of preseason games, as they try to move up the depth chart into solid roster spots or practice squad opportunities.

Outlook: The Saints offensive line was looked at by many as one of the team's weakest areas as they entered the 2016 preseason. The line surprised many, by jelling quickly and overcoming injuries to Armstead to actually become a respected unit around the league. They will need the same performance in 2017 if New Orleans is to have any sustained offensive success.

Many questions need answered quickly. Can the Saints overcome another injury to Armstead? Will Warford be a capable replacement for Evans? Can Strief continue to play well, and hold off Father Time? Will Ramczyk and Peat play up to their first round draft status?

The New Orleans Saints have one of the best offenses in the league, but they're led by a 38-year old quarterback that needs to remain healthy and upright. New Orleans still has the potential to have a very good offensive line, but answers to these questions quickly are crucial if the 2017 Saints are to be successful.

Poll

Will the Saints offensive line repeat their success in 2017?

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  • 92%
    Yes
    (244 votes)
  • 7%
    No
    (20 votes)
264 votes total Vote Now