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John DeShazier: Saints are intent on letting Andrus Peat settle in at left guard

Former first-round pick has played every line position except center

Photos from 2017 New Orleans Saints Training Camp at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on August 4, 2017.

In his first two NFL seasons, former first-round pick Andrus Peat spent time working at every offensive line positon except center.

Ponder that, and it's easy to understand why the New Orleans Saints are intent on letting Peat settle in at left guard during this offseason and training camp, hopefully for the entirety of the upcoming season, even though left tackle Terron Armstead was injured during offseason workouts and Peat capably has shown that he can play left tackle at a high level.

"It's been nice just to be able to focus on one spot and just really work my technique at that one position and try to get better each day, each practice," Peat said Thursday.

"I'm happy to play at guard. If that's where my coaches want me to play, I'm happy to play there."

Peat, a left tackle at Stanford, was drafted No. 13 overall in 2015 with the intent of him playing right tackle for the Saints, a successor to Zach Strief. But after taking practice snaps there during training camp as a rookie, an injury to Armstead during the regular season forced Peat to flip sides of the line and start several games at left tackle.

When Armstead returned, and in an effort to get the best five linemen on the field, Peat slid inside to make several starts at left guard before starting at right tackle for an injured Strief in the next-to-last game of the season in '15.

Last year, the initial assignment for Peat was right guard as a potential replacement for Jahri Evans, who'd been released in the offseason. But the move didn't work as well as hoped, so Peat shifted back to left guard – Evans eventually re-signed to play right guard before the regular season – and Peat started at left guard the first two games, only to kick out to left tackle after Armstead was injured.

Peat started 15 games in '16 – nine at left tackle, six at left guard (twice, he started at left guard but finished the game at left tackle) – and despite his solid play at tackle, and even after Armstead was injured this offseason, the Saints opted to leave him at left guard and to allow him to hone his skills at one position.

"He's improving," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's a young player and yet, on the left side, whether it's left guard or if he has to go out and play left tackle, there's a little bit more comfort level.

"But so far we've been able to keep him there and with each practice, you're hoping that he's making the same improvement and having the consistency you're looking for – and there are things we're working on with his hands, with his leverage. But I think that has benefited him, with the experience he had last year and how he played and then coming into this camp."

Peat, in fact, hasn't taken any practice reps at left tackle. Even with Armstead out – Payton said he expects Armstead to return and contribute this season – there has been no temptation to turn to Peat. Rather, the Saints are working the second of this year's two first-round picks, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, at left tackle.

"I was ready for it," Peat said of the possible move back to tackle. "Whatever I was asked to do, I'd be ready for it. It wasn't really anything I worried about, I just prepared for both scenarios."

Preparation was helped by the fact that he has had experience playing at each position.

"I would say it helped, as far as knowing the offense," Peat said. "Because I have to know what the left tackle does and what the left guard does. It's helped me so I can help out Ryan at left tackle and we're on the same page.

"Getting that experience, two years of game experience, has really helped me."

Even with that, though, Peat continues to learn on the job, and to become more familiar with its demands.

"Making sure I keep my pad level down is a big thing, and just always playing with the right technique and putting my body in the right positon to be successful," he said.

"Being able to adapt. I came in as a tackle and kind of had to learn on the fly how to play guard, because I had never really played it. Being able to adapt and being versatile is a big thing."

Being able to stay put, and concentrate on one position, helps.




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