Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Mailbag: Running backs, Mike McKenzie and Adrian Arrington

See the mailbag results below. Thanks for the questions guys, and please keep them coming at! I will field them every Monday.

Stanley H from Virginia wrote:
How will the running back situation play out next year with Deuce gone, Reggie carrying an injury history and Pierre Thomas still unproven? Is there a chance Deuce comes back on a smaller deal to get some goal line work? Who will get the lions share of the carries?

Also, why is Mike Karney so dreamy?


My Take: Well Stanley, heart right back at you buddy. I’ll have to ask my wife why Karney is so dreamy, because I’m not sure I can answer that accurately or appropriately. As for your excellent question about the running back situation, it’s definitely a good one. Let me answer the second part to your question first: There is no way Deuce will come back. Unless you count the possible deal he’d sign 1 day before he retires as a Saint, he will not be playing for New Orleans again. I’m sure someone will take a chance on him if he proves he’s recovered from his injuries, but you could tell over the course of the season that Sean Payton grew annoyed with the loyalty the fans and media had towards Deuce. I think Payton sometimes viewed that as a distraction. Right now I think the Saints backfield will feature Reggie in a similar role to what we’ve seen in years past, and Pierre Thomas carrying the load. I think you can expect 10-15 carries a game for each guy, with Reggie playing more often on passing downs. There will be lots of special design pass plays for Reggie, but the Saints are not going to feature him as a 20-25 carry guy – maybe ever. If your question is who is the unquestioned starter – I think it’s Pierre Thomas with Reggie getting a lot of playing time. Remember the draft is close by, and free agency is in full swing… so don’t be shocked if the Saints add a power back. In fact, I would almost expect it. A lot of experts have the Saints drafting Beanie Wells 14th overall, and while I don’t agree that’ll happen, it’s certainly not out of the question. The reason I don’t think they’ll draft Wells is they’ve already gotten a fabulous running back in Pierre Thomas without drafting him AND they’ve already spent a 1st on Bush. I think there’s already a lot of money tied up at the running back position to spend another 1st, and the Saints believe they can find a good runner other ways which they’ve already proven they can do. Even if they don’t draft Wells, there are lots of power backs available in the latter parts of the draft and also in free agency. They’ll make an addition one way or another. Heath Evans is currently tabbed for the short yardage situations, I would think, unless they find someone better suited to run them. Don’t forget Mike Bell runs with a good amount of power too, and could be a surprise making the 53 man roster.

Elizabeth from Baton Rouge wrote:
Mike McKenzie – major loss or needed change?

My Take: Thanks for your email, Elizabeth, I think this is a great question. My answer is: both. Mike McKenzie in his prime was unquestionably the TOP performer on the Saints defense. He shut down opposing receivers and was terrific in both run support and coverage. I don’t think the Saints currently have a cornerback on their roster that is better than McKenzie was in his prime, so we certainly haven’t replaced him. From that standpoint McKenzie is a major loss, and from the way our backfield has been playing as of late that is evident. That said, a change was also needed, due mostly to his very serious knee injuries. When he shattered his knee cap last year he was already having a hard time bouncing back from a torn ACL the previous season, and 2 severe knee injuries at his age is impossible to rebound from. More so than Deuce, even, I think Mike McKenzie is completely done and I’d honestly be surprised to see him on someone’s roster come week 1. If you look at the corners currently on the Saints roster, the good news/silver lining is that I think we have more depth than ever at the position. We might not have a certified stud like McKenzie was, but between Greer, Porter, Gay, David, Young and Torrence we’ve got 6 guys who can legitimately play the position. This means we can probably absorb a minor injury or two more than ever at this position (provided it’s not as serious as what Tracy Porter or McKenzie suffered last year) and should be in decent shape at the position. I don’t think people realize how serious the loss of Mike McKenzie is though, Elizabeth. I think our best hope is that Jabari Greer turns out to be a solid pickup (and not someone who gets lost in our defensive scheme like Jason David did) as our #2, and that Tracy Porter continues to improve and turns himself into the next Mike McKenzie. That’s a tall order, but it’s not impossible.

Bill from New Orleans wrote:
Do you think Adrian Arrington has any shot at starting?

My Take: Bill, thanks for participating. The short answer to your question is no, he has no shot. The long answer is that Adrian Arrington has been a fan and coach favorite, no doubt, and I think he’s a popular pick to move up the depth chart if he can stay healthy. Be careful, though, because the guy has not yet played a single down in the NFL and he was drafted in the 7th round. He had a MAJOR injury last year, and he’s going to have to get through the entirety of camp and preseason healthy if he wants a chance to make this team. I think it’s questionable at best whether he makes the team, so forget the starting lineup. Lance Moore is the clear cut #2 for the Saints behind Marques Colston, and Henderson is firmly entrenched as the deep threat #3 slot guy. I think Robert Meachem, as inconsistent as he has been, is also a guy Arrington will have to surpass. If he can get through the periods I listed above healthy, I think he will definitely make the roster and stands a decent change to snag the #4 spot ahead of Meachem. Barring injury or Lance Moore leaving the Saints, I think the top 3 spots are not going to change. Those guys are proven commodities, and Arrington is anything but. Side note, many people like to compare Arrington to Colston because of their similar draft placement. That’s something to be careful about, too, because Colston is an abnormality. Not many 7th round picks make it even 3 years in the league, and especially when they have season ending injuries before their first season even starts. Finding guys like Colston in the 7th round is like finding a needle in a haystack. Arrington has shown promise so I’m not closing the door on him, but he’s got an uphill battle for sure. That being said… for every Robert Meachem and Jonathan Sullivan, there’s guys like undrafted Pierre Thomas and Colston. Arrington could become a serviceable player in the league, and could make you look like a genius for liking him.