Armstrong, other Saints rookie camp notes

May, 20, 2014
May 20
9:00
AM ET
METAIRIE, La. -- Some leftover news and notes from the New Orleans Saints' rookie minicamp this past weekend:

Grand competition: Among the group of 18 undrafted free agents that originally signed with the Saints last week, Matt Armstrong stood out more than most.

For one thing, Armstrong is a center. That is considered a position of need for the Saints, who are thin after letting former starter Brian De La Puente leave in free agency. Armstrong (6-foot-2, 302 pounds) was ranked in the 10-15 range among centers in this year's draft class by most analysts.

For another thing, Armstrong hails from Grand Valley State -- the same place where the Saints unearthed undrafted rookie Tim Lelito last year.

The same Tim Lelito who is currently penciled in as the Saints' starting center.

"I wouldn't say [we will] compete, because he's already on the team," Armstrong said of Lelito. "He's in the rotation. I'm just trying to make the roster and do the best I can."

Armstrong said Lelito has been very helpful so far, in fact. And Lelito's experience in New Orleans certainly helped Armstrong choose the Saints when he had his pick of suitors (including the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers).

"It's a great team, I saw a great opportunity," Armstrong said. "Obviously I knew Tim Lelito, he told me about the organization and how they gave him a shot. And I just felt like I would get a shot down here."

The Saints also dipped back into West Texas A&M this year -- returning to the school that produced breakout running back Khiry Robinson last year. When asked if that's coincidence, Saints coach Sean Payton said programs like those are on the rise.

"I think some of those other programs have done a really good job," Payton said. "Grand Valley, West Texas, each year now there were other players aside from the ones that are here that are in other camps. With the scholarships the way they are, you see a lot of good football, not just at the major college level. We try to scout it accordingly."

Twin swap: For the first time since they were kids, identical twin cornerbacks Brian and Brandon Dixon are on different teams -- Brian an undrafted rookie with the Saints and Brandon a sixth-round pick of the New York Jets. But they'll still get a similar experience since they're now playing for identical twin coaches, Rob Ryan and Rex Ryan.

According to The Times-Picayune, the Ryans have had fun with the concept, each claiming through text messages to have snagged the better-looking brother.

The Dixons both played for undefeated NCAA Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State last season.

Fine print: Payton was asked whether any newcomers stood out to him during practice and made him reference his roster to see who they were.

"Well a lot of them have. It would be hard to start singling out guys after three practices," Payton said after Saturday's morning session. "But we have these little cards with numbers on them. The problem is the font is too small. I have to go back into my office and put readers on to see."

Familiar names: The Saints wound up signing four players that tried out over the weekend (veterans Cheta Ozougwu and Thomas Welch and rookies Derrick Strozier and Steve Hull). But those weren't the only noteworthy names among the players the Saints invited in for three-day tryouts.

Among the list of players that tried out but didn't wind up signing with the Saints: former LSU/San Diego Chargers/Denver Broncos running back Jacob Hester, defensive end Jamaal Anderson (a former first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons), former Tennessee Titans quarterback Rusty Smith and former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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