Brees expresses confidence in rookie Armstead

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 25, 2013 at 9:06 pm •  Published: December 25, 2013

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Drew Brees sounds as if he's fine with coach Sean Payton's commitment to stick with rookie left tackle Terron Armstead in a game New Orleans may have to win to make the playoffs.

"He's coming along great," Brees said after practice Wednesday evening. "I'm excited for his opportunity."

Armstead, drafted in the third round last spring out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, made his debut in last Sunday's 17-13 loss at Carolina.

Three times, the player he was blocking — Greg Hardy — sacked Brees. Twice, Armstead was called for false starts.

Beyond that handful of plays, however, Brees and Payton insist that their analysis of game video left them with the impression that Armstead performed well under difficult circumstances.

"People are going to look into it how they want as far as last game goes," Brees said. "I thought he played extremely well. I thought he played against a very tough pass rush, some really good pass rushers — and listen — some of those sacks were on me.

"You're going to get beat from time to time, and next play he's 20 yards down the field pancaking a guy," Brees continued. "He's still young, he's still raw, still learning and is only going to get better with experience."

Payton said the 6-foot-5, 304-pound Armstead looked strong run blocking. He also noted that when coaches graded game video, they only faulted Armstead on two sacks, determining that factors beyond how long Armstead held his block were responsible for the third sack.

"Overall, we were pleased — first time out on the road against a good player like he went against and a good front," Payton said. "So that's encouraging."

Armstead couldn't recall being nervous, but said he did sense he was "thinking a little too much."

"I had a few mental things that are unacceptable and can't happen," Armstead said. "But I feel like I had a pretty solid game."

The rookie also appreciated that Payton didn't yank him after his first couple of mistakes, and in fact praised his overall performance and still has him practicing with the first team as the Saints prepare to host Tampa Bay on Sunday.

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