FOXBORO, Mass. — When Trey Flowers looks across the line of scrimmage Sunday afternoon, he’ll see a second-stringer looking back at him — and a rookie one, at that.
With usual starter Terron Armstead expected to miss the first month of the regular season following shoulder surgery, first-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk will get the nod at left tackle for the New Orleans Saints as they host the New England Patriots at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Thrust into action with Armstead out, Ramczyk has endured baptism by fire in the early days of his NFL career.
In Week 1, the Wisconsin product was tasked with blocking Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen, a Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons. This weekend, it’ll be Flowers, the rising-star defensive end who led the Patriots in sacks last season and tallied two last Thursday in New England’s otherwise dismal defensive showing against the Kansas City Chiefs.
According to reports out of Saints training camp, Ramczyk struggled with technique at times this summer — a common hurdle for linemen transitioning from college to the pros. But since he’ll be going up against a guy whose nickname literally is “Technique,” this seems to be a matchup that favors the Patriots.
That’s not to say Ramcyzk was bad in his NFL debut. He wasn’t. He did allow one sack to Griffen in the Saints’ Monday night loss but otherwise performed fairly well, with Pro Football Focus ranking him as the 27th-best offensive tackle Week 1.
“I’ve been really impressed with him,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in a conference call Wednesday. “I like his demeanor. I like his approach. He’s got a great group of offensive linemen around him, a great right tackle in Zach Strief, who’s been a great mentor for him. He continues to get better each and every week.
“Obviously, playing in this league, there are a ton of great pass rushers week in and week out. He had a really tough first test this past week against Everson Griffen with Minnesota — Pro Bowl guy, one of the elite pass rushers in this league. I thought he did very well, but obviously, there’s constant room for improvement.”
New Orleans coach Sean Payton called the 23-year-old Ramcyzk “an old soul … in a good way.”
“He’s a quick learner,” Payton said. “He has a poise about him and good presence. But maturity has served him well, playing here in his rookie year in a tough position Week 1.”
A rookie blocker against a proven pass rusher is a mismatch, even when that rookie comes as highly touted as Ramcyzk, who was the second O-lineman taken in this year’s draft. (The Saints got him with the 32nd pick, which the Patriots coincidentally traded to them for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.)
Keep an eye on the other side of New Orleans’ line, too. Strief, a 33-year-old veteran who’s been with the Saints since 2006, also will miss Sunday’s game after spraining his MCL in the loss to the Vikings, per a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Senio Kelemete, who has started just 14 games since entering the league in 2012, replaced Strief at right tackle and could get the nod there Sunday, as well.
Whoever starts in that spot likely will see a lot of Deatrich Wise, who excelled as a third-down pass rusher last week in his NFL debut. Dont’a Hightower was New England’s primary rusher off the left edge against Kansas City, but he’s dealing with a knee injury and might not play against New Orleans.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images