The New Orleans Saints have a crowded backfield, featuring four quality running backs: Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Christopher Ivory. For a team that also contains one of the best passing quarterbacks in league history in Drew Brees, there are not always a lot of opportunities for the ground game to shine. Still, the Saints are better when the running backs are involved. As a Saints fan, I would like to see Ivory have a more prominent role in the team's offense in 2012.
Sproles has his place, serving as a main outlet for Brees on passing plays. He caught 86 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011, his first season in New Orleans. Add another 603 rushing yards with two scores, and Sproles has proven that he belongs on the field.
Thomas has rushed for 2,501 yards and grabbed 1,363 receiving yards in his five seasons with the Saints, scoring 49 total touchdowns. Ingram played in 10 games as a rookie in 2011 and received a good amount goal line carries, finishing with 474 yards and five touchdowns.
So where does Ivory fit in? This is the question that Saints coaches will have to deal with, but it is clear that he belongs on the field. With only four starts and ten appearances, Ivory led the Saints with 716 rushing yards in 2010. After missing the first two months of 2011, and then returning to a loaded running back squad that had added Sproles and Ingram, Ivory never really got rolling until the final regular season game. In that game he scored his only touchdown of the season, carrying the ball 19 times for 127 yards in a 45-17 win over the Carolina Panthers.
The key statistic, though, is that the Saints win when Ivory runs. Although he has only played in 18 total games, the Saints are 9-1 when Ivory carries the ball 12 times or more. There is clearly a significant difference when he is healthy and on the field.
The New Orleans Saints have tons of offensive talent, which is a great problem to have. In 2012, I would like to see the team have a chance to rely on the running backs, by building leads with the pass, and then wearing the defense down with the running game. Hopefully Ivory will be given a shot to contribute more.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- New Orleans Saints
- Darren Sproles
- Mark Ingram