Friday, 13 May 2011 15:28

New Orleans Saints, Brees Should Have Balanced Offense With Ingram

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The draft made the Saints a tougher team, but all clubs in the NFC South got stronger, too.

The NFC South was the strongest division in the league last season with the Falcons going 13-2, the Saints 11-5 and the Buccaneers 10-6. The three were excellent teams, but all had one glaring weakness and those holes have been filled.

The Saints drafted running back Mark Ingram, a weapon they didn't have last season, a guy who thrives in short-yardage situations.

The Saints still have a need for an outside linebacker even though they drafted Martez Wilson in the third round.  Scott Shanle could become a free agent and sign with another team as Scott Fujita did last season.  The Saints could pursue Bills linebacker  Paul Posuszny, who could become a free agent.

If Ingram's knee holds up, he should be a really good running back for the Saints. Having him in the backfield makes Drew Brees that much more dangerous.  The Saints will no longer have to watch the injury report to see if Reggie Bush can play.

Ingram is an old-fashioned running back, something the Saints haven't had since Deuce McAllister retired.  Ingram is not a great receiver or a speed back for draw plays, but he'll give the offense less flash and more grind. He'll help the Saints sit on leads and make first down rushing yards, two things the Saints had trouble with last season.

The Saints passed 59.3 per cent of the time on first-and-10 in 2010. They threw 254 first-and-10 passes, the NFL's highest total.  Those throws netted 1,564 yards, just the tenth-highest average in the league.

But those first-down passes yielded diminishing returns for the Saints. Opponents knew the short Brees passes were coming, and the deadly play-action bomb became a dangerous proposition for the Saints. The Saints' play-action passes were a threat when the Saints had a balanced attack. Without a decent running game, Brees  threw seven interceptions on what should have been "safe" passes and was sacked eight times (fumbling twice) while playing most of the season with a  knee injury, which has healed.

The Saints averaged 4.6 yards per carry when they did run on first down. When they were holding onto leads in the fourth quarter, they're rushing average dropped to 3.0 yards.  And, the Saints rushed the ball 82 times when they were ahead in the fourth quarter, and 12 of those runs came on third-and-one or at the goal line.  That's a very low number for a team that won 11 games

With a shortage of running backs, the Saints weren't very good at running out the clock and holding onto leads. They just kept passing, but they weren't scoring points like they did in their Super Bowl season.

The Saints need a multi-dimensional offense again and should have one with the addition of Ingram.  And, Saints opponents will have to prepare for them with brains and now brawn again.

Some hither, others yon: has come out with a power ranking of NFL owners. Atlanta's Arthur Blank was the only one to make the top 10. Even though Tom Benson's Saints have moved up from hard times, he didn't get a vote. The Saints have moved forward with Sean Payton and Brees and the Saints have sold out every game since the Superdome reopened in 2006.  Benson, you will remember, was the scourge of the Saints fans before that, when there were constant reports he wanted to move the team to San Antonio. That didn't happen and the Saints are in great shape right now. But there are still a lot of Saints fans who have long memories, but you have to give Benson credit for moving the team forward since then. The top five NFL owners: 1) Rooney family (Steelers) 2) Robert Kraft (Patriots) 3) Packers 4) Mara/Tisch (Giants) 5) Jeffrey Lurie (Eagles).

by Ed Staton

Saints and LSU Jerseys at Louisiana Sports Talk


Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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