The New Orleans Saints have a problem, and I am not talking about their defense. Their defense has been a problem all year long but at least it is now starting to improve. The problem the Saints are facing is on offense, specifically their ground game.
With Darren Sproles returning to practice this week it appears that he will be ready to go in week 11 against the Oakland Raiders. The problem is that the Saints have four great running backs that deserve playing time. This is a great problem for a team to have because any team would kill to have four running backs capable of starting. Another problem is that there will surely be an odd man out now that Sproles has returned.
Sproles will resume his role as the Saints’ number one running back and with Mark Ingram playing so well in lately he will likely be the number two back behind Sproles. With Sproles and Ingram being the number one and two backs where does that leave Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory?
I think the Saints should feature a three running back lineup as they have had great success over the past two games. The Saints rushed for 140 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in week nine and 148 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in week ten. Furthermore, the Saints have had two rushing touchdowns in the past two games.
Ivory has been great in the past two games as he has rushed for 120 yards on 17 carries with both of the Saints’ rushing touchdowns, including the 56-yard beauty against the Falcons. Ivory is a power back and he has proven that he can come in and be physical as he fights for the extra yards.
Thomas on the other hand has played in all nine games and has rushed for 311 yards on 69 carries with one touchdown. However, Thomas has not helped his cause as he only rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries over the past two games. It seems like the question comes down to which running back can be most effective?
If I were to choose I would choose Ivory as the third running back because his production over the past two week has been remarkable and he deserves more playing time. However, is it possible for the Saints to split carries between four running backs? Interim head coach Joe Vitt has said that he wants the running game more involved so maybe it is a possibility.
Whatever the case may be the Saints definitely have a dilemma on their hands. All four running backs mentioned have earned playing time and it is now up to the coaching staff to make a decision on what they want to do. The Saints have a problem with their running game but at least it is a good problem as opposed to a bad one.