MINNEAPOLIS — The New Orleans Saints headed into the regular season optimistic at a tackle position that included a steady veteran on the right side in Zach Strief and first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk holding down the left side until Terron Armstead can return from summer shoulder surgery.
New Orleans' depth at tackle may have taken another hit against the Vikings on Monday night. Strief went down with a left knee injury in the second quarter and did not return, forcing backup Senio Kelemete into the game at right tackle.
Kelemete has filled in at just about every position on the Saints offensive line in his four years in New Orleans.
"I thought he held up pretty good," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We kind of went through the scenarios of who we want to play, and with each injury."
Initially unable to get to his feet, Strief was able to get up and walk off the field. The veteran tackle went into the medical tent the Saints have for sideline examinations, then walked into the locker room with a member of the training staff.
The New Orleans offensive line struggled to create holes in the running game, but the patchwork group actually held up well in the passing game. Brees was sacked just once and hit two other times, as well as a couple of quarterback hits nullified by penalty.
Payton said the play-calling wasn't affected much by Strief's absence.
"I don't know if (Strief's absence) altered it that much," Payton said. "Play calling begins to get altered when, all of a sudden, you're down three scores."
If Strief has to miss extended time, New Orleans could bring back veteran tackle Bryce Harris, who was released on Monday to make room for linebacker Adam Bighill.