Over the past 2 seasons the Saints have ranked in the bottom of the league in rushing including 28th in 2008. Why is that? Is it the running backs? Is it the offensive line? Is it the defense? Could it possibly be the play calling? While many people debate over this the answers is yes to all. When you look across the message boards you notice someone arguing from every point, each thinking they are right and the other is wrong. Let’s look at why all of are actually a contributing factor to the problem in the run game.
Is it the running backs? Yes, they have to take part of the blame here; some of it was because the Saints didn’t have the big bruising back that they need, which made it hard to convert on those 3rd and 1’s and 4th and 1’s.
How to fix it? The team has made some moves to try to improve this need, Pierre Thomas added 10 pounds to his lower body but until they are in pads and lining up it will be hard to tell if it has a positive or negative effect on him. Mike Bell who is up to 230 and looking lean and Lynell Hamilton will be given their shots too. The Saints also brought in some more competition by bringing in undratfed free agents PJ Hill and Herb Donaldson, but we won’t be able to tell if they pay off until sometime later into camp. Right now we simply don’t have a proven power back but these guys will be given the chance and if none step up the Saints will have to look at trading or signing a future free agent.
Is it the offensive line? Yes, the line on several short yardage situations failed to get enough of a push to make room for the backs or they let someone come off the edge and stop the play in the backfield.
How to fix it? From a personnel standpoint the Saints are not in that bad of shape though center would have been an area to look at for upgrading. Right now the biggest thing that needs to be done is attitude and technique. The Saints need to focus a lot of getting this group more in rhythm when it comes to run blocking and the best way to do that is repetitions.
Is it the defense? Is it the play calling? Yes, and these two aren’t mutually exclusive to one another, because of the defense struggling and often giving up the big play the Saints would be forced to have to try and simply outscore the opposing team, meaning that they had to abandon the run on too many occasions.
How to fix it? Fix the defense, which the Saints have been focusing on by bringing in a new defensive coordinator and several new faces through free agency and the draft. This in turn will change how Payton has to call plays giving more options to call runs and not having to worry about winning shoot-outs every week. If the defense can give the offense good field position it will result in quick leads and then the running game can be allowed to establish a rhythm and chew up the clock.
Overall the Saints are moving forward and hopefully their efforts will pay off with significant improvements.