Two of Saints left tackle Terron Armstead’s four starts last year were against the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses, or Seattle and Carolina, respectively. He also got to see Cameron Jordan, New Orleans’ Pro Bowl defensive end, up close every day in practice.
Yet, asked Monday night to name the best NFL player he played against as a rookie in 2013, Armstead said it was Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette — “hands down.”
Galette has the “most unorthodox style you would ever see,” Armstead told SiriusXM NFL Radio hosts Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt during an interview. “He’s not the typical 6-3, 6-4, 270-pound (pass rusher). He’s very nimble, very agile, his change of direction is incredible.
“I believe this guy will — he had kind of a breakout season last year, but I think (he will take) even another step.”
If Armstead’s prediction for 2014 is true, it may be more difficult to deny the 6-foot-2, 258-pound Galette his first career Pro Bowl and should boost New Orleans’ chances of reaching the postseason for the sixth time since coach Sean Payton was hired in 2006. Some felt Galette merited a selection to the most recent edition of the NFL’s all-star game after racking up 12 quarterback sacks, which was second on the Saints to Jordan (12.5) and sixth overall in the league.
Though Armstead’s plaudits to Galette were notable, they weren’t the sole focus of the young tackle’s discussion with Marvez and Brandt. Armstead spoke frankly about how he feels he grew with “each game, each snap really” after he was tabbed to replace Charles Brown, who was benched in the middle of a Week 15 defeat at St. Louis and is now with the New York Giants.
Armstead struggled in the first half of a Week 16 setback at Carolina, in which the Saints essentially lost the NFC South title to the Panthers. But he then settled in well as New Orleans beat Tampa Bay in Week 17, upended Philadelphia in the first game of the playoffs and was eliminated at Seattle in the divisional round of the postseason.
“It’s a different rhythm than being at practice, scout team and all that stuff,” said Armstead, who had been a backup since the Saints picked him out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the third round of the 2013 draft. “If you’re not a starter, you’ll get zero reps with the No. 1 offense so you’ll be out of rhythm. But getting those snaps — like, each snap I felt I got better; I got more comfortable; I feel like it’s going to make it even better this year.”
Armstead also spoke about how he hurt a hand in the first quarter of the playoff game at Philadelphia, which culminated in the first true away postseason victory in Saints history. He welcomed the offseason by undergoing a minor surgery on the hand and needed “a few months” to rehabilitate.
Afterwards, he went to Florida to train with some Saints teammates and other NFL peers. He was back in New Orleans on Monday for the first day of voluntary offseason conditioning workouts, where he said Saints quarterback Drew Brees preached the message, “Let’s make this push for a (Super Bowl) ring.”
“That’d be the ultimate accomplishment,” said Armstead, who was 18 when Brees and the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV at the end of the 2009 campaign.
Additionally, Armstead said it was difficult to see “great friend” Brian de la Puente — the Saints’ starting center since 2011 — depart to Chicago in free agency. But he expressed confidence in the Saints’ front office however it chooses to replace de la Puente.
Second-year Saints offensive lineman Tim Lelito was de la Puente’s understudy. ESPN recently reported that New Orleans has visited with free-agent center Jonathan Goodwin, a one-time Pro Bowler who was with the Saints from 2006-10, left for San Francisco for three seasons and is back on the open market.
The Saints have also reportedly hosted a couple of centers who will be available in the upcoming May 8-10 draft.
“I’m pretty sure the administration knows exactly what they’re doing,” Armstead said. “I’m pretty sure they will bring in someone veteran. If not, Tim Lelito … is already in the building (and) is very, very good, so I’m pretty sure everything will be fine.”
Finally, before signing off, Armstead talked about how he’s re-launching the youth football program in his hometown of Cahokia, Ill., and hopes someone from there joins him in the NFL soon.
“My hometown is a really big talent pool, actually, so I’m just trying to motivate and encourage those guys to get out and play and chase your dreams,” Armstead said. “I believe this will be a big step (toward) getting more guys into the eyes of scouts to go to college and make an NFL push.”