Thursday, July 8, 2010

Saints Nation: Running the Football is Key to Saints' Success

We all know the Saints can throw the ball. That's never been a secret. Since Sean Payton has joined the team and they landed Drew Brees as a free agent signing, the passing game for the last four years under this current regime was a given in terms of performance. Offensively, the variable has been in overall balance and specific effectiveness running the football. Let's look at the Payton era stats:

2006 stats: 10 wins, 472 carries, 1,761 yards, 3.7 yards per carry.
2007 stats: 7 wins, 392 carries, 1,466 yards, 3.7 yards per carry.
2008 stats: 8 wins, 398 carries, 1,594 yards, 4.0 yards per carry.
2009 stats: 13 wins, 468 carries, 2,106 yards, 4.5 yards per carry.

Without question 2009 was far and away the most successful year for the Saints in terms of both yards and yards per carry. Interestingly enough, though, they didn't run the ball as much as they did in 2006 (by 4 carries). While the yards per carry in 2006 was on par with 2007 and 2008, the carries were much higher, and so was the win total. I think there is a direct correlation there. Obviously this doesn't factor in defense, which was better in 2006 and 2009, but I would argue that running the ball and therefore the clock had an impact on the defensive performances in those years. The bottom line is the coaching staff needs to target spreading around about 450 carries going into the year. When they dip below 400, it's a sign of poor balance and the records reflect poor overall performance. The big question this year is the departure of Mike Bell and how that will effect the Saints. Pierre Thomas will have increased responsibility, and Lynell Hamilton will have to step up.