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John DeShazier: Saints linemates Larry Warford, Zach Strief already developing chemistry

New teammates nerd out on intricacies of offensive line play


There's a hint of pride in Zach Strief's voice when he describes himself and Larry Warford as offensive line "nerds."

Not that Strief isn't accustomed to studious teammates. But the veteran right tackle has found a kindred spirit in the New Orleans Saints' free agent right guard, a meticulousness that delves to a depth that perhaps few understand, or care to understand, how to explore.

"I think we're very into the intricacies and I think there's a lot of guys that have beliefs on techniques and how to do things," Strief said. "We were legitimately excited (Friday) because we took better first steps on a naked (bootleg). Legitimately, like, high-fived each other. It's kind of weird."

"It's just fun having somebody else there who can offer a different viewpoint on body mechanics and offensive line play," Warford said. "It is kind of nerdy. Just (talking about) motion, what muscles are engaged, if inefficiencies are happening on a certain play, being able to diagnose what's going on and trace it back to what's leading back to mistakes."

It's a fresh dynamic for Strief.

For much of the first 11 years of his NFL career, when he looked to his immediate left, there stood Jahri Evans, one of Strief's 2006 draft classmates. Evans, a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro, became the second-most decorated offensive lineman in franchise history and earned franchise-wide respect.

But when the Saints signed Warford in free agency, the separation from Evans was solidified. Warford (6 feet 3, 317 pounds and entering his fifth season) seamlessly has adapted to playing alongside Strief after spending his first four seasons with Detroit.

"With Zach, it's real easy to transition into this offense," Warford said. "He's been in there for so long, he knows everything that's going on. He knows how he and Jah used to set and he's explained that to me.

"He'd tell me how to incorporate how I play a little bit into what he's used to, and vice versa. We've been bouncing opinions back and forth on each other and it's going real smooth, as smooth as I could have hoped. With Zach, this transition has been real easy for me."

Said Strief: "I think more than anything, there's just differences in how they're moving. I felt like I could overlap Jah in play sometimes on the backside. His release from certain blocks was different, he's a different type of player.

"Larry is so explosive, I feel like I'm behind him half the time. So that's pushed me a lot to get going, get out of the stance and get moving because he's gone quicker than Jah was. They're just different types of players and I think that stuff will come. But I think it's already going well. I think we're already getting a good feel for each other."

So good is the chemistry, Warford said, that the two nearly have reached the point where they don't have to speak in order to have an understanding of how best to coordinate on a given play.

"Cohesion-wise, we're way ahead of where I would have thought we would be," Strief said. "We do – no doubt, in meetings all the time – we'll get, like, all excited about a step. Like, 'You see that? You see that step?' It's like, 'That's good.' He's like, 'That's nice.' It's really weird.

"It's a weird relationship but we're both really into it. We're not going to run into any issues. I think we're already getting to a point here where communication is easier, we don't have to be as descriptive. I think we're seeing things."

The realization that they were on the same page came early.

"I realized it pretty quick, just from the first day," Warford said. "I think he was talking to Landon (Turner) about something, about engaging his hips and how he should go about doing it, and it was exactly how I'd been taught. From there, I was like, 'Let me stand by this guy.' It went on from there.

"I call him Yoda. Just his vast understanding about our position from the ground up, in and out. It's on another level. I love talking about it, so I just call him Yoda."

His meticulous teammate doesn't mind at all.

"Larry referred to me as 'Yoda,' and I thought that was a nice compliment," Strief said. "That's nerdy."

Photos from 2017 Saints Training Camp presented by Verizon at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on July 31, 2017.

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