Do the Saints Need an Upgrade at Running Back?

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Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (43) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated New Orleans 23-15. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Kevin Roberts of You can follow Fantasy Football Overdose on twitter at @NBAandNFLInfo, and for more information on the NFL visit Fantasy Football Overdose – your online source for anything about fantasy football.

I’d like to personally thank Kevin for his willingness to help us out! Networking is always outstanding! Enjoy!

Do the Saints Need an Upgrade at Running Back?

The New Orleans Saints haven’t wanted for offense for a very long time. Basically ever since head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees were paired together in “Who Dat” nation, the Saints have ranked near or at the top in offense in the league.

But it’s one thing to dominate through the air, or from an overall standpoint. Despite their great success, the Saints have struggled to be a team that can consistently run the ball at an elite level. They’ve actually been decent in that department, but there is always room for improvement.

More specifically, the talent New Orleans currently has in its backfield is aging and moderate, at best. Mark Ingram started to show life again in the first round of the playoffs with 91 rushing yards and a score in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but fumbled in the second round.

The door isn’t completely closed on Ingram being “the guy” for the Saints. He’s just 24 and did run well in both playoff games last season. However, career highs of 602 rushing yards and five touchdowns are uninspiring, while his inability to stay healthy and lack of versatility limit his overall upside.

Considering Ingram was already the subject of trade rumors heading into the 2013 season, it’s starting to seem entirely possible that he gets dealt or released before next preseason.

Beyond Ingram, the Saints just need to look to get young out of the backfield. Pierre Thomas has proven to be a very serviceable change of pace back, and even has been able to handle early down work when called upon. However, he’s pushing 30 and there are whispers that he may not be back with the team in 2014. That makes his $2.9 million salary a cap casualty, and if New Orleans couldn’t talk him into a reduced number, they’d suddenly be hurting at running back in terms of experience and effectiveness.

The same goes for shifty third down man Darren Sproles, who will be 31 in June and is coming off easily his worst season in three years in New Orleans. It doesn’t really sound like he’s in serious danger of getting cut, but he does make the most money of any Saints running back and is aging, so it wouldn’t be insane for the Saints to save some cash while looking to the future at the position.

The last guy to look at is Khiry Robinson, an undrafted free agent who impressed in the old “Chris Ivory role”. Blessed with good size and deceptive speed, Robinson could be a chief piece for the Saints going forward. More importantly, he could end up leap-frogging Ingram or Thomas or even make one of them more expendable than they already appear to be.

One way or another, the Saints should at least consider changing things up in their backfield. They probably won’t suddenly move away from their effective committee approach, but thanks to injuries and inconsistency, there’s little doubt that could still improve in that area of their offense.

For now, we’ll assume Robinson is safe and will be the new Chris Ivory for the next few years. But let’s think about what could happen if Ingram, Thomas or Sproles are handed their walking papers. With that in mind, here are three running backs in free agency or the draft that New Orleans might want to consider.

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Tags: Darren Sproles Fantasy Football Overdose Guest Spot Khiry Robinson Mark Ingram New Orleans Saints New Orleans Saints 2014 New Orleans Saints Free Agency New Orleans Saints Running Backs NFL 2014 Draft NFL Free Agency Pierre Thomas

  • Home Creation

    The saints do not need to waste a draft on another running back at this moment. The Saints need to improve their offensive line and strategize a more balance play calling package. The 2009 Saints had and all pro offensive line and that is why the Saints ranked in the top 10 in rushing that year. This year that was not the case due to the poor blocking and pass protection from the line. Zach Streif should also be benched he is horrible in pass protection just watch the 2012 season and many games this season and you can see he is a casualty, besides he almost got Brees hurt seriously against the 49ers when Brooks blew by him and and almost broke Brees neck. Please start with the foundation….. an offensive line and then you can improve the running game. One other note, you live by substitution packages every play, you die by it also. Teams were able to predict when the Saints would run just by the constant substitutions (every play). It also takes players out of rhythm and it even minimizes the threat of J. Graham if he is on the bench. And there are many ways to get Graham open, how do you allow a defense to shut down one player the whole game if he is supposed to be so good. Payton missed a season and was a bit rusty on play calling, but you got to run quick screens to Jimmy especially since he lines up in a wide receiver spot anyway, keep him in motion or run him out the back field (be creative). No huddle offense,,, better audibles from the Quarterback. The Saints have too many weapons to be vulnerable in the running game or a particular player getting shut out. One more note Brees must reduce his turnover ratio concerning intercepts, and that is the big elephant sitting in the room.

    • Home Creation

      I Apologize for saying Zack Strief should be benched the other day. According to Federico Ferrari – Feb 27th, 2014 at 5:04 pm “NFL 1,000 right tackle Rankings” , Zach is ranked number one in the NFL this year ….. And he only had three sacks against him this year…..and he improved from being ranked 23 in 2012 to the best in the league this year. So with those improvements he made this year my hat goes off to you Zack and you deserve to start and lead the Saints at the right tackle position. ( please disregard my previous post about benching you , I am a lifelong fan and my passion just took over).

  • Al Martin

    if a bulk of the money goes to brees and graham then wats left to pay for top notch offensive linemen and/or wide receivers?