Sean Payton is on a warpath. After releasing kicker Garrett Hartley, the New Orleans Saints coach benched his starting left tackle.
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Rookie Terron Armstead will get his first start against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL on Sunday when the Saints meet the Carolina Panthers with the NFC South on the line.
Armstead will start in place of Charles Brown, who was benched last week after giving up two sacks in a 27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
"I think Terron has improved during the course of the season, taking scout team reps, and it's time to see what he can do," Payton said Wednesday, per the Saints' official website. "I visited with Charles this morning and of course he is disappointed, but I'm sure he'll handle this the right way and respond."
The 6-foot-5, 304-pound Armstead was an NFL Scouting Combine wonder before being selected in the third round by the Saints.
Armstead hasn't played a snap on offense this season, but Payton said he believes the change was "necessary right now for us."
The Saints' offensive line played well in the Week 14 home win against the Panthers. The group gave up just two sacks, for a loss of nine yards, and allowed quarterback Drew Brees to pick apart the Panthers' secondary.
However, Brown struggled mightily last week against Defensive Player of the Year candidateRobert Quinn and has been wildly inconsistent the entire season. Payton likely didn't want to watch that rerun against the combination of Panthers rushers Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson.
Payton knows his offense can't function if Brees is under siege. The offensive guru believes the rookie blocker represents the team's best chance to win the division against a great pass-rushing team.