When Saints offensive lineman Andrus Peat talks about his NFL ambitions, he’s humbled by how his first season went after New Orleans made him the 13th overall draft pick in 2015.
Peat started four games at guard, three at tackle and one as an extra blocking tight end last season.
“It was definitely tough at first and just a lot of learning, being a rookie. But I felt like I improved throughout the season and I’ve tried to carry that on through (offseason training), minicamp and this training camp, just continually getting better,” Peat said after a recent practice at Saints training camp at the Greenbrier Resort. “I feel more comfortable having a whole year of experience and kind of knowing what to expect.”
For now, signs point toward considerable improvement for Peat in Year 2. But the good reviews he’s getting from coaches and teammates still have to translate during games that count. And Peat’s got more on his plate than the typical lineman because he’s preparing to be a starter at either offensive tackle – which is his natural position – or offensive guard.
“He’s going to be fine,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, noting that the 6-foot-7, 320-pound Peat is in better physical shape than he was a year ago. “I like where he’s at. He’s extremely talented.
“His versatility, athleticism, and size is really something that is a gift for him athletically,” Payton added. “It gives him some ability to move.”
When the Saints first drafted Peat, Payton said the club viewed him as a tackle, a position at which he thrived at Stanford, where he played until his junior season before turning pro. Peat also had the benefit of learning how to block from his father, Todd, who was an NFL offensive lineman for six seasons, playing mostly at guard.
Payton said the Saints knew they were drafting Peat, if he was available.
“You rarely see that (combination of) size and athleticism. He was a junior coming out; we knew he was young. He was big, smart, played in a pro offense. His father played (in the NFL),” said Payton, noting that he and Todd Peat both played high school football in Illinois and took recruiting visits at the same time to Northern Illinois, where the elder Peat wound up playing. (Payton wound up at Eastern Illinois)
“This vision for him when we selected him certainly was that of a tackle, yet to his credit, with his athleticism, he can play guard,” Payton said. “He may very well start for us at guard.”
Since training camp opened last week, Peat has been working in practice as a first-team left tackle because incumbent starter Terron Armstead is listed as physically-unable-to-perform with an undisclosed ailment that Payton has said is not expected to sideline Armstead more than a month. But Peat is also getting snaps at guard, often with reserve units.
“I don’t think it’s difficult,” Peat said. “I like getting as many reps as I can and just being versatile and being able to help any way I can.”
Peat is aware that coaches and teammates have raved about his talent and complimented his improved fitness, but he said, “I really don’t think about that.”
His experience on the field, both in his eight starts last season and in practice now, is what he said “gives any player confidence, just knowing you can go out and compete.”
Right tackle Zach Strief, entering his 11th NFL season, said Peat’s progress is evident.
“It’s obviously a big jump for him from last year. He’s in good shape,” Strief said. “They’re moving him around, but fortunately when you have a guy that’s that talented, he’s making those transitions pretty easily and that’s a good sign.
“It'll certainly be fun to see how he develops as camp goes on. I think Andrus is going to be a really good player.”
Notes: WR Brandin Cooks missed practiced on Thursday, as did CB Damian Swann, who watched from the sideline. Meanwhile, FB Austin Johnson left practice early. Payton declined to discuss injuries. Also among those absent was CB Keenan Lewis, who practiced for the first time this training camp a day earlier. Payton said Lewis was just resting and there was “no setback – just the schedule, the way we’re operating right now.”