Deke: Running the football will help Saints in more ways than one!
2012 was not a good season for the New Orleans Saints in several areas. Rushing the football at a high level was not an achievement made by the Black and Gold last season. The Saints ranked 25th in rushing yards per game in 2012 with a meager 98.6 yards per game.
The Saints commitment to rushing the football lacked a lot as only three teams in the NFL, none with winning records (Dallas, Jacksonville and Arizona) rushed the ball fewer times than New Orleans did in 2012. The Saints rushed the ball 370 times for an average of 23.1 attempts per game.
This off season our sports staff here at WWL Radio was able to talk to some of the most notable names when it comes to covering the National Football League. I went back and listened to our interviews and took out some of the more interesting comments made from the movers and shakers in the NFL Media.
In our conversation with Former NFL RB great LaDainian Tomlinson, I asked him to give us his take on the Saints Running Backs. Ingram talked about Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Now we all have opinions, but I think it’s safe to say when you look at the resume of Tomlinson, his opinion carries a little more weight than others.
At the time of his retirement, Tomlinson ranked fifth in career rushing yards with 13,684, he was seventh in all-purpose yards with a total of 18,456, second in career rushing touchdowns 145 and third in total touchdowns with 162.
Tomlinson spent 11 years in the NFL and now he serves as an analyst on NFL Network. Here is what Tomlinson had to say about Ingram, Thomas and Sproles:
Mark Ingram: “I think Mark is going to have take a big step in being able to improve his yards per carry. When you look at Mark he’s only averaging 3.9 yards per carry. I would like to see him (Ingram) become more explosive and create bigger runs for that Saints Offense. If he can do that, he will become a thousand yard rusher.”
PT & Sproles: “But at the same time you can argue that he’s (Ingram) been held back a little bit because it’s a crowded backfield. Sproles (Darren) is going to get touches as well as Pierre Thomas. They are all going to get touches.”
On Ingram and spreading the ball around: “For the Saints, I don’t necessarily think it’s a good thing if Mark Ingram becomes a one thousand yard rusher. I still think you have to use Pierre Thomas because he adds a dimension to your team and certainly you have to use Darren Sproles. I’m not too worried about Mark Ingram becoming a one thousand yard rusher…But he has to improve his average yards per carry. That stat determines what type of back you are in this league. If you’re a below four yards per carry type of running back, I’m sorry, you’re not going to stick around very long because the team is going to look for more explosive backs.”
The Saints will look to get back to rushing the football at a high level this season much like they did back during the 2011 season, when the club averaged 132.9 yards rushing per game, ranking New Orleans 6th in the NFL in rushing.
Rushing the football on a consistent basis will not only benefit the offense, but will help aid a defense that needs all the help it can get. And when you look back at the seasons when the Saints ran the ball effectively, Sean Payton became even more dangerous when it came to calling plays.
Let’s face it, when the Saints run the ball well, it is nearly impossible to slow down their offense. I expect a strong emphasis on getting back to rushing the football with more consistency to be something to keep an eye on during training camp.