According to veteran running back Pierre Thomas, the New Orleans Saints haven’t put so much effort into building their running game since before Sean Payton became head coach. If the Saints are going to make a run at a second Super Bowl victory, their work better pay off.
They may not be a running team, but they have plenty of talent in the backfield. Even though Darren Sproles is gone, the Saints will still be able to throw the ball to their running backs, primarily Thomas. He has been around the longest, and he is the best pass-catcher and pass-blocker that they have playing running back. Thomas will probably see most of his plays on third down, but that shouldn’t hamper him too much.
Former first-round pick Mark Ingram is entering a contract year (since the Saints didn’t pick up his option), so he has to be looking to produce more than ever before. He showed some flashes of stardom last year, but it will take more of those plays and fewer mistakes (such as the fumble against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs) for him to merit a new contract. He’s been running snaps with the first team, so there’s a good chance he could win the starting job over Thomas.
Much of the running game hinges on Khiry Robinson. He made some big plays late in the season, so big things will be expected from him. He won’t be seen quite as often as Ingram and Thomas, but the coaches will be sure to fit him into the rotation.
There are other guys that could make the roster, but the fate of the running game (and the season) depend largely on these three. On thing is for certain — if the Saints are going to win it all, they have to be a better running team.