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John DeShazier: Andrus Peat being counted on to start for Saints

He was starting right guard during open OTA

Visibly, there's a lot less "after" than there is "before" for Andrus Peat.

An immeasurable desire to improve and an offseason of being in the New Orleans Saints' conditioning program have slimmed the 2015 first-round pick to a much closer approximation of his listed 6-foot-7, 316-pound frame than he likely ever was as a rookie.

And this, too, can be added to the list of accomplishments that Peat has achieved as he prepares to enter his second season: He is being counted on to start for New Orleans.

So while the word "svelte" isn't applicable – he's still an offensive lineman, after all – the word "starter" certainly appears to be.

During organized team activities, the position is right guard and though Peat doesn't have game playing experience there, he does have it at almost every other offensive line position.

In 12 games played last season, with eight starts, he opened twice at left tackle and four times at left guard, and played all but the first snap at right tackle in the season finale. He also made several starts as an extra tackle.

In training camp last year, he received reps at every line position except center. In training camp this year he figures to be among the five best linemen and when the stated goal is to have the five best on the field, it means Peat figures to be there among them.

"I think he is doing real well," Coach Sean Payton said Thursday, after the Saints finished their first three-day OTAs. "He finished strong last season. Obviously, he played at a few different spots a year ago.

"He is in great shape, and I think that is going to serve him well as we are in these practices and as we move into training camp. Certainly we see him starting. Whether it's at right guard or right tackle, we've got some time and some flexibility with regards to that. I'm encouraged with how he's progressing."

The fact that Peat, the No. 13 overall pick in '15, is working under the assumption that he is a starter isn't much of a surprise. When the Saints drafted him, the thought was that he would become a starter.

But the belief was that he soon would be opening at right tackle. Although Peat said he only has played left tackle in his career, Terron Armstead is entrenched in that positon for the Saints, leaving Peat as the heir apparent to Zach Strief at right tackle.

However, Strief, who has started every game he has played at right tackle the last five seasons, is looking to rebound from a season in which injuries affected his production. If he does so, then Peat's versatility likely will earn his snaps at right guard, the position vacated this offseason by the release of Jahri Evans.

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