Cahokia High School graduate Terron Armstead will be making his first NFL start this Sunday for the New Orleans Saints.
Armstead has been declared as the Saints starting left tackle by coach Sean Payton in light of left tackle Charles Brown's struggles this Sunday in a 27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
Brown was benched midway through the third quarter after Rams defensive end Robert Quinn sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees, forcing a fumble.
"This is what I've been preparing for week to week," Armstead told the New Orleans media. "I don't think it'll be too tough. Of course, it's different from practicing, but I think I'll be ready."
Armstead, who has played in four games on special teams (17 plays in total), will be seeing his first action on offense on the road against a Carolina Panthers defense that ranks second in the NFL.
He'll be protecting Brees' blind side against Panthers right defensive end Greg Hardy, who has eight sacks on the season.
"I really don't look at it as too much pressure," Armstead said. "It's what I came here to do, to play. It hasn't happened until now so I just have to take advantage of my opportunity."
The Saints selected the 6-foot-5, 304-pound Armstead in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He was considered a raw talent with the athleticism and quick feet to eventually develop into a starting left tackle.
"He's athletic, he's someone who has a pretty good feel for what we're doing," Payton said. "Certainly, there will be growing pains when you play a young player like that and yet ... I think he's smart, I think he'll prepare and study and do all the little things. I think he'll get great support by that room, it's a pretty close room. I'm anxious to see him compete."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees also is looking forward to seeing how Armstead performs under fire.
"I'm excited for him," Brees said. "He's continuing to improve each and every day. Throughout training camp and into the season I think he's just been biding time, waiting for his opportunity. (It's) a great challenge for him, but a great opportunity. I've got a lot of confidence in him. He was excited as well."
Armstead said he's had to adjust to playing on the first team offense with Brees after spending all season working on the scout team with backup quarterback Luke McCown.
"Drew's cadence is a little faster than Luke's," Armstead said. "So it took me a couple of plays to get acclimated to it. But I feel comfortable. I really don't look at it as too much pressure. It's what I came here to do, to play. It hasn't happened until now so I just have to take advantage of my opportunity."
Armstead's promotion to the starting unit was one of several changes for the Saints, who also cut kicker Garrett Hartley after he had two field goals partially blocked by the Rams.
Veteran kicker Shayne Graham replaced Hartley. Brown remains on the Saints' roster.
"I think Terron has improved during the course of the season, be it taking scout team reps, some work with the offense, and it's time to see what he can do," Payton said. "It was a decision made based on looking at a lot of snaps and looking at the consistency and the things we're looking for. I think there were a handful of things that happened in that game the other day that really prohibited us from having some type of success. It wasn't just one player. There were a lot of hands that were in that mud, including mine. But this is something that I think is necessary right now for us."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.