METAIRIE, La. — Ben Grubbs sat down Saints left tackle Terron Armstead on Christmas Day and dispensed with what he hopes will help the rookie move on from his first career start, one in which he gave up two sacks and two hurries.
“I told him (Wednesday) that that game will be his worst game he plays his whole career,” said Grubbs, now in his eighth NFL season. “That’s nothing but upside. He’s a very athletic left tackle and he has a lot of upside to him.”
New Orleans coaches saw enough of Armstead in their video review of the Saints’ four-point loss to Carolina to retain him as the starter on the left side, quarterback Drew Brees’ blindside.
His job will once again be important as the Saints (10-5) host Tampa Bay (4-11) on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. It’s a game that, if New Orleans wins, it’ll earn a playoff spot.
Armstead will be lined up against Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who has five sacks and 12 quarterback hurries this season. His 15 tackles for a loss are second-most on the team.
Coach Sean Payton said while Armstead gave up two sacks, his overall game stood out as being “encouraging.”
“I think one of the things that we saw in the running game, he did a really good job finishing,” Payton said. “We had him for two sacks, but overall, we were pleased. First time out on the road against a good player like he went against and a good front, that’s encouraging.”
Sitting at his locker Wednesday, three days after the Panthers game, Armstead was confident in the product he put on the field, admitting to several mental errors but otherwise having a solid performance.
“When I watched the tape it was actually a little better than I thought,” Armstead said. “So that was encouraging.”
The rookie was thrust into the spotlight when the Saints benched Charles Brown in the middle of their loss to the Rams on Dec. 15. Until the Carolina game, Armstead had not played an offensive snap all season and fewer than 20 special teams snaps. He had been inactive in 10 games.
His first mishap came late in the first quarter when defensive end Greg Hardy twisted off the line and ran right by Armstead. The rookie was caught up blocking Mario Addison, who ended up rushing inside. Brees was forced to hold onto the ball because his receivers were well covered down the field.
The next sack he gave up came early in the second quarter when Hardy started a rush to the outside before breaking inside. He ran past Armstead and into the pocket, where Brees was looking for a receiver to break open down the field.
He also was called for two false starts in that first half, his first true 30 minutes of professional football. His second half went much better as he didn’t give up a sack and wasn’t called for another penalty.
“I feel like it went smoother,” Armstead said. “I don't really know the reason for it. I try to look at every play as a individual play, but the second half felt like it went a lot smoother.”
And that’s likely why teammates are confident that Armstead is the right man for the job heading into Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.
“But I think all-in-all I loved the look in his eyes throughout the week, his preparation in the game day, just kind of the even flow of the game where you’re going to get beat from time to time but the next play he’s 20 yards down the field pancaking a guy,” Brees said. “I thought he bowed up and played very well.”
Added Grubbs, “He’s very capable of being the left tackle that the Saints want. Obviously that’s why they drafted him. I think playing at home this weekend will be big for him.”