Getting back to a more balanced offense is a top priority for Sean Payton and the Saints this season. Despite being loaded with a ton of talent in the backfield in 2012, the Black & Gold seemed allergic to handing the ball off as they finished ranked 25th in the NFL running the football out of 32 teams.
There is one name missing from last year’s Saints stable and that is fan favorite Chris Ivory. The often injured punishing bruiser was shipped to the New York Jets on the 2nd day of the draft.
Let’s take a look at some familiar names, plus the latest undrafted free agent that is looking to make it on the roster.
#23 Pierre Thomas
“He's a good inside runner,” Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com says. “Every run that he has, he gets yards after contact. He is one of the best in the league at that. He's great in the passing game, probably one of the best screen pass receivers of the last 5 or 10 years. I've always wondered why he didn't get the ball more”
PT should be in store for an increased work load this season with the departure of Ivory. Since coming onto the scene as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2007 the Flying Frenchman has always given max effort, which a huge reason why he made the team and continues to win the hearts Who Dats.
#43 Darren Sproles
Sproles is also a threat on the ground or in the passing attack. Like most Saints, he suffered a dip in numbers last season, but still racked up 1,577 all purpose yards and 8 touchdowns.
His speed combined with his height make him a difficult target to tackle in the open field and is very skilled in gaining the extra yard without taking a big hit. Expect a monster season from Sproles as he is coming back this year fully healthy after suffering a broken hand in the middle of 2012 that sidelined him for 3 games.
#22 Mark Ingram
Have we seen the real Mark Ingram yet? He is entering his 3rd season with the Saints and many are expecting him to finally put up numbers to justify why he was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft.
“I think Mark is going to have to take a big step in being able to improve his yards per carry,” said future Hall of Fame running back Ladaian Tomlinson who now works for the NFL Network. “He’s only averaging 3.9 yards per carry. That determines what type of back you are in this league. If you are a below 4 yards per carry type of back, I’m sorry you're just not going to stick around very long because the team is going to look for more explosive backs.”
Ingram has shown glimpses of greatness, but far from anything on a consistent basis. He has been bothered by injuries, but is ready for an increased role in the offense as he enters 2013 the healthiest he’s been in Black and Gold.
"I'm real confident," Ingram said at training camp. "Just the fact that I didn't have to go through any offseason rehab or recover from surgery; I had a full season of OTAs and minicamp. The month before leading into training camp I was away training on my own. So I feel real good, I feel real healthy, I feel strong and fast. I'm just excited about this year."
Believe me Mark, Saints fans are hoping to be excited to. Something to remember: Ingram still has his best days ahead of him as he turns 24 in December.
#39 Travaris Cadet
As an undrafted rookie in 2012, Cadet earned a spot on the Saints roster and was the team’s main return man on kickoffs. He totaled 690 yards on 26 returns good for an average of 26.5 yards per return. For that reason alone his spot on the roster is likely secure even though his role in the offense was limited. We’ll see what Sean Payton can get out of Cadet now that he gets to work with the 24 year old for the first time.
# 29 Khiry Robinson
This team loves small school talent as Robinson is an unknown undrafted free agent out of West Texas A&M. He led the Lone Star Conference last season with 1,621 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, along with 38 receptions for 430 yards, and 4 receiving TDs. He could be a threat to Cadet but will probably end up on the practice squad is he proves worthy. And with the Saints track record there’s no reason to think that this kid isn’t legit
The Pelicans have officially announced the signing of free agent Anthony Morrow. The 5 year vet adds more depth at the guard position and currently ranks 5th among active NBA players in career three-point field goal percentage at 42.4%.
New Orleans backcourt is overloaded with talent with point guard Jrue Holiday and shooting guard Eric Gordon along with Tyreke Evans, Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts and now Morrow.
GM Dell Demps seems to be following the Spurs model for success as their roster had 7 guards on it this past season. San Antonio could tinker with match-ups and also proved the plan was valuable in case of injury.
Morrow is 27 years old and went undrafted out of Georgia Tech in 2008, but was signed by the Golden State Warriors where he played 2 years. Since then he has spent time with the Nets, Hawks, and Mavericks.
He adds some bench scoring to the Pelicans and could be a secondary contributor in 3-pointers behind Ryan Anderson.
Reports started filtering in last night that restricted free agent Tyreke Evans had verbally agreed to sign the Pelicans 4 year $44 million offer sheet. If the guard does indeed sign on July 10th, then the Sacramento Kings would have until July 13th to match New Orleans' offer.
A new development has sprung though as the Sacramento Bee is hearing that the Kings will not match the Pelicans offer, but are looking to work out a sign and trade that would send center Robin Lopez and point guard Greivis Vasquez their way in exchange for Evans.
If this deal goes down, expect Evans to play small forward for New Orleans with Eric Gordon at shooting guard and Jrue Holiday running the point. Anthony Davis will be the team's power forward, while moving Lopez leaves a hole at the center position.
Monty Williams could decide to play Davis at center and start Ryan Anderson at power forward, but I am not sure that will be the plan as AD still needs to bulk up. The team does also have Jason Smith on the roster, and he could play the 5.
Again... IF the deal happens, look for the Pelicans to acquire someone like veteran center Samuel Dalembert to be the team's big man. Would it be crazy to try and lure Andrew Bynum to New Orleans and ink him to a one year deal? May sound like it's worth the risk but won't be an option because of the lack of cap room New Orleans would be left with after acquiring Evans.
The Pelicans have also been linked to Knicks restricted free agent Chris Copeland, but have not extended the forward and offer yet.