Thursday, December 31, 2009

Saints Nation: How Much Do the Saints Miss Heath Evans?

With the recent troubles the Saints have had running the football, specifically in the second half against the Buccaneers this past weekend, I got myself to thinking: Just how much do the Saints miss injured fullback Heath Evans? Evans was lost for the season when he injured his knee against the Miami Dolphins after having up to that point an outstanding season. Evans' injury has not been talked about much since it happened, and his departure has been somewhat under the radar. You cannot argue that Evans was a catalyst in the running game when he was healthy, but how much has the running game suffered without him?

I pulled up the stats for the Saints running the football and their yards per carry with and without Evans and the results were interesting:

6 games with Heath Evans: 154.3 rushing yards per game, 4.61 yards per carry, 33.5 carries per game.

9 games without Heath Evans: 118.7 rushing yards per game, 4.54 yards per carry, 26.1 carries per game.

So there is no question that the Saints are running the ball less effectively across the board, but from the numbers it looks like it's more from running the ball less than it is missing Evans. The yards per carry difference: 4.61 vs. 4.54 is fairly negligible, but the carries per game (33.5 vs. 26.1) difference is astronomical. Granted, the Saints are running less in large part due to falling behind early in a number of those 9 games compared to building big leads early in their first 6. That said, the Saints had more success scoring early in games when Heath Evans was a part of the offense. Coincidence or related, it's hard to say. The bottom line is the Saints' running game isn't going as well in recent games, but the yards per carry has stayed virtually the same, so the Saints aren't running the football enough.

So who's to blame? Coaching? Heath Evans' injury? Decline in defensive performance? I'm inclined to say it's some combination of the three. But while Heath Evans is unquestionably being missed, it's perhaps by a little less than I would have guessed.