The Saints drafted Cesar Ruiz in the first round in 2020 and seemed intent on playing him at center. But without a real offseason because of the pandemic, combined with training camp injuries, Erik McCoy remained at center and Ruiz started 13 games at right guard.
It now appears McCoy is entrenched at center.
“It’s going to be hard to beat him out,” assistant offensive line coach Zach Strief said, via Katherine Terrell of TheAthletic.com. “I think he played fantastic last year. He had a huge jump. You’ve got to wait and see. Just like every year, the goal is always to get the best five that you can on the field, and figuring out where those guys best go is kind of on us as coaches. But he was outstanding, and we’ll just kind of see how it works itself out.”
McCoy has started all 32 possible games at center since the Saints selected him in the second round. He received an All-Pro vote in 2020 and is moving closer to earning his first Pro Bowl honor.
With three-time Pro Bowler Terron Armstead at left tackle, one-time All-Pro Ryan Ramczyk at right tackle, McCoy at center, Ruiz at right guard and three-time Pro Bowler Andrus Peat at left guard, the Saints have one of the best lines in football. The only changes are on the coaching staff, with Dan Roushar moving to coach tight ends, Brendan Nugent taking over as offensive line coach and Strief – a former Saints player – joining the team as an assistant offensive line coach.
“I think we have the best tackle tandem in football,” Strief said. “I think Erik McCoy, I think by the end of the year, he’s going to be considered one of, if not the top centers in football. I think there’s a great core there. You take a guy like Cesar, who has gobs of talent, not having an offseason his first year, all those things. He missed a bunch of camp time. I think that’s going to help all those guys, having that extra time in the offseason.”