Larry Warford knew exactly what sized vacancy he was stepping into when he signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent last year.
As a right guard, he was taking over the position previously manned by Jahri Evans, one of the best players in franchise history, the second-most decorated offensive lineman in franchise history and a cornerstone for the Coach Sean Payton-era offense that has been one of the most productive in NFL history.
In one season, Warford didn't make people forget Evans. But he certainly made strides to force them to remember him, by earning a Pro Bowl position and helping to anchor one of New Orleans' most balanced offensive outputs in years.
The Saints posted 2,070 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on 444 carries in 2017, a combination that hadn't been approached since the Saints of '11 ran for 2,127 yards and 16 scores on 431 carries.
"He played well last year," Coach Sean Payton said. "He's a great teammate, he's got great respect in the locker room and in the offensive line room. He comes to work every day. He was a great addition for us.
"He's strong, he's powerful, he helped us a bunch in our run game and in pass protection. We felt like when we watched his tape from Detroit, those were the traits we saw and I would say all of that, and more, is what we got. And I still think he's improving."
Warford believes he's improving, too, partly because he has a level of familiarity now that didn't exist at this same time last year.
"I'm pretty comfortable," he said. "Just the versatility of all the guys that we have in the room makes it real easy for me to step in. The coaching is top-notch, they make it really easy for the guys – anybody – to just come in to this offense and pick it up extremely fast.
"The chemistry that we have now, we mesh together so much better compared to the beginning of last year. We've really figured each other out. We have a good thing going right now."
Really good, if first-year results are any indication.
In Warford's first four NFL seasons, with Detroit, the Lions twice had a winning record and advanced to the playoffs, and lost their wild card game each time. In his first season in New Orleans, he helped win the NFC South Division and the wild card game.
"I think we had the right pieces, the right people, the right coaches," Warford said. "And after our 0-2 start I think we really just took a look in the mirror and got the thing going. I was very happy to be a part of that, for sure."
That, he hopes, is just the beginning – the winning, more so than the honors.
"All that stuff, I'm not really too focused on," Warford said. "I just want to do my part for my team. So I'm not looking at Pro Bowls, I'm not looking at personal accolades. I'm looking to make my team better. I got recognized for what I did and it was all just because I was trying to help out my team. So that's just kind of an afterthought."