Depth has been a staple of the New Orleans Saints during their run of four consecutive NFC South titles. But for the first time in a while, the team is thinner at key positions than it has been in recent past.
Bleacher Report recently wrote about the one player each of the 32 NFL teams can’t afford to lose, and for the Saints, B/R decided that one player was left tackle Terron Armstead:
This spot belonged to New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk before the team recently rewarded the steady 27-year-old with a five-year, $96 million extension. Now, it has to go to his bookend buddy at left tackle, Terron Armstead.
Ramczyk had the edge because he’s several years younger than the soon-to-be 30-year-old Armstead, but there’s no sign that three-time Pro Bowler is slowing down after another strong season in 2020. In fact, he had the fourth-best PFF grade among qualified tackles last year.
As the Saints try to bridge the gap between Drew Brees and their next quarterback, it’s important that they keep their pillar tackles on board for several seasons to come.
With Nick Easton no longer with the team, the Saints depth on the offensive line is certainly a concern, and losing a player of Armstead’s caliber would be less than ideal to say the least. But Armstead hasn’t played a full season in his entire NFL career, and it’s hard to imagine his first full year coming immediately after the regular season expanded to 17 games.
Andrus Peat, the Saints’ starting left guard, fills in admirably at left tackle in Armstead’s absence, with a player like Easton - or James Hurst in 2021 - filling in at guard. While the offensive line takes a massive step backward without Armstead’s presence, the team at least has a plan in place for how to handle the inevitable injury.
I would argue there’s another player, even more vital to team’s chances of success in 2021, but it’s a different offensive player: 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas.
When Michael Thomas was forced to miss time due to an ankle injury last season, Emmanuel Sanders was able to step up and become the team’s de facto number one wide receiver. But Sanders is now a Bill and the Saints no longer have the NFL’s most accurate passer at quarterback after the retirement of Drew Brees. Whether Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill is at the helm, if Tre’Quan Smith is the team’s #1 wide receiver if Thomas were to miss time, the entire offense will likely struggle far more than the team would if (read: when) Armstead goes down.