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Saints tackle Ryan Ramczyk builds on standout rookie year

It's easy to forget that at this time last year, Ryan Ramczyk hadn't yet taken a snap for the New Orleans Saints.

Not because the first-round draft pick (No. 32 overall) was a rookie who was projected to serve in an apprentice role and wasn't ready or willing to work. Instead, because that rookie was recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, a process that possibly could have robbed him of valuable repetitions and stunted his growth.

"We didn't get anything until really the last day of minicamp and, really, those were minimal reps," Saints offensive line coach Dan Roushar said Thursday, as the Saints concluded OTAs and readied for their three-day minicamp on June 12-14. "So it was very difficult."

It's easy to forget because Ramczyk not only caught up quickly, but also excelled in such a way that few, if any, could have foreseen.

He was one of the diamond-level members of a crown jewel rookie class for the Saints, a starter for Games 1 through 16 during the regular season and for both playoff games, who played both tackle positions and every offensive snap of the season.

"We had such a level of expectation and yet, you never really know what you're getting," Roushar said. "I think the first thing that struck us was his demeanor as he came in. Even not taking reps, his intensity - there's a quietness about him, but it's a very focused way. I guess the short answer is, yeah, I think he's exceeded my expectations very quickly."

Ramczyk more than held his own and earned noteriety in a Saints draft haul that included the NFL's Defensive (cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and Offensive (running back Alvin Kamara) rookies of the year.

He opened the season as a starter at left tackle (due to an injury to Terron Armstead) and finished at right tackle (due to an injury to Zach Strief), and at no time did Ramczyk give the impression that the moment was too big or the opposition too significant.

"Last year was kind of chaos, jumping into the mix," Ramczyk said. "I learned a lot though, especially having Zach Strief as a mentor last year. He was a huge help."

Ramczyk now better knows how to help himself, and is in the process of building upon the foundation that he set last year.

"Coming into this year, (I'm) just working on some of the things that I picked out of last year that I need to work on. I think it's been a good start here."

A good start, followed by impressive - and expected - growth.

"Just pad level in run blocking and staying square in my pass set," Ramczyk said. "Just little nuances like that, little things, little details."

"Ryan is showing really big growth," Roushar said. "We've been impressed with what he's done so far.

"I think fundamentally, he has just improved an awful lot. Just watching him in the run game right now, his targets, his landmarks are improving, he's using his inside hand better, he's straining through blocks better. It's tough to measure that when we go against one another without pads, but it looks to me like he's sustaining longer and he's in better balance. And then in pass pro (protection), I'm seeing him get to the set point better, he's working his inside hand, he's carrying his outside hand a little bit better.

"Those are little things that I see him doing, and doing each and every day, and so there's more consistency. And with consistency, as we know, there's improvement."

Opponents, too, likely will be spending a little more time looking for ways to attack Ramczyk. It's something that he's expecting, the next challenge to conquer.

"They're definitely going to have a lot of tape on me this year, so they're going to know how to attack me a little bit better, I think," he said. "So I'm just going to have to get in the film room and study them and give them my best."

His best this year will be better. This year, he already has hundreds of snaps to build upon.

The New Orleans Saints hold Week 3 of OTA practices at Ochsner Sports Performance Center on June 7, 2018.

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