Senio Kelemete draws praise from Saints line coach


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- We’ve put the New Orleans Saints' offensive line under the microscope this offseason, dissecting newcomers Max Unger and Andrus Peat, new starter Tim Lelito and returning vets Jahri Evans, Zach Strief and Terron Armstead.

But when asked Monday who has stood out this offseason, Saints offensive line coach Bret Ingalls threw out a guy who has stayed under the radar: Senio Kelemete.

Kelemete, 25, spent last season as a backup guard for the Saints, playing only seven snaps because starters Evans and Ben Grubbs were so durable.

This summer, the Saints moved Kelemete into their backup center role since former backup center Lelito was promoted into the starting lineup.

“We didn’t know if he could play center [last year] and we didn’t have time to find that out,” Ingalls said. “Now he’s playing center and now his value is a lot higher because he can play both positions, and he’s doing very well at center.”

Kelemete (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) began his career as a fifth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2012. He played in only one game as a rookie before being cut in 2013 and eventually landing on the Saints’ practice squad.

It’s possible Kelemete could wind up pushing Lelito for the starting left guard job at some point. Lelito singled him out as his stiffest competition earlier this offseason. But so far the Saints haven’t shown any signs of an open competition there.

Ingalls said he expects continued progress from third-year pro Lelito. The former undrafted free agent has played well in spot starts over the past two years at both guard and center, but he failed to win the starting center job in a battle with veteran Jonathan Goodwin last summer.

“I think him not having to snap will make it easier for him, as it would for anyone,” Ingalls said of the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Lelito. “He's a very strong guy. I don't know if snapping it and playing it affected that at all because he played well a year ago, but he looks comfortable at guard.”