Who Dat Running The Ball In New Orleans?
By Greg Barber
Falling from 2,127 yards rushing in 2011 to a paltry 1,577 yards in 2012 was a huge reason why the Saints fell from 13-3 in 2011 to 7-9 in 2012. The struggles in the running game caused the Saints offense to become predictable because there was simply no serious threat from the backfield. In many cases, there could have been such a threat if the offense would have just stuck with it. Instead the offense usually lost confidence and abandoned any attempt at a rushing attack way too soon.
In a recent article by Larry Holder of Nola.com, it was written that the Saints were moving to the outside zone scheme to get the running game back on track this season. After a deeper look into how this scheme works and judging from the type of talent on the offensive line and running back group, this change will definitely help the team. Teams like the Texans and Seahawks use this scheme successfully. Redskins HC Mike Shanahan has used it for years and just look at the success RB Clinton Portis had during his time in the NFL.
If executed correctly, this new scheme on offense will get the Saints to 2,000-plus yards rushing as a team in 2013. The Saints used the outside zone scheme a few years ago, but got away from it. Offensive linemen Ben Grubbs, Charles Brown, Brian de la Puente and Zach Strief are ideal for executing this type of rushing offense since they are considered to be more athletic blockers than maulers. As long as they can block their areas and create a seal for the running back to run through, this can be an explosive addition to the offense. Overall, you should see a better push and more holes open from the offensive line this season whether they are running the outside zone scheme or not.
RB Darren Sproles is the first rusher who comes to mind that needs to have a much better season in 2013. His total production went down drastically between 2011 and 2012, but there is no doubt that he will play better this year. Saints fans can rest assured that HC Sean Payton will be designing plays that will help Sproles use his talents against opposing defenses. It is important for Sproles to play well because of the matchup problems he can create against opposing defenses.
Fellow RB Pierre Thomas is the Saints most reliable runner and there are no signs of him slowing down as he will continue to play a big part in the running game and as a pass catcher out of the backfield for the team. Thomas will not necessarily be a 1,000-yard rusher for the team, but his skills will be put to use to keep drives alive.
RB Mark Ingram, as stated in an earlier article, will be a 1,000-yard rusher this season. It is important for Ingram to get off to a quick start this year, hitting the hole decisively and with a burst. Late last season, Ingram showed that the lightbulb finally came on and he understood that he can't just let the game come to him.
Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson will probably contribute on special teams for the most part in 2013 but are great weapons to have in reserve given the injury history of the Saints running backs. As for Robinson, opposing defenses will have to watch out - he is a talented young runner that the Saints must keep moving forward.
The NFL has shown many times that you can never have enough good running backs given the nature of the position. As a result, there is nothing wrong with being prepared just in case an injury should occur to one of the primary backs.
Saints fans should be prepared to run the ball down opposing defenses throats this season. Can I get a WhoDat?
Sproles is an explosive force for any offense as long as he can stay healthy. Thomas is underrated and would be a top RB on any other team. Ingram has yet to prove he can pound the rock on a consistent basis. Lots of question marks here overall.