Aug 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas (23) runs against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Film Room: Pierre Thomas To Take On Sproles' Role In Saints Offense

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In a recent interview Saints veteran running back Pierre Thomas stated that his role was going to “…change a whole lot this year.” We had a chance to see that when Thomas was on the field in the third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts: he’s going to do it all this year.

The first three offensive possessions of that game are enough to give you an idea of how Sean Payton is going to use Pierre Thomas now that Darren Sproles flies with the Eagles. Let’s get in the film room and take a look at the variety of things PT will be asked to do this year. 

OUTSIDE THE NUMBERS

Classic Darren Sproles here: how many first downs have the Saints gained with Sproles split out wide on a quick comeback route?

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The cornerback is playing off coverage so it’s easy for Thomas to turn back when he’s near the marker. Colston helps to clear out some space by keeping the linebacker inside.

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Little miscommunication here: Thomas turns inside but Brees puts the ball on the outside. Result of the play: incomplete pass.

FROM THE SLOT

Once again next to Colston, Thomas starts from the slot and runs a quick out:

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With two stacked receivers the defenders have to play off coverage and that leaves a HUGE space for Pierre Thomas to work with. It’s impressive because, even if he’s not in his prime anymore, Thomas can still accelerate quickly after the catch and reach the marker in the blink of an eye:

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Result of the play: first down New Orleans.

SCREEN GAME

Thomas is in the backfield in a 2nd-and-long situation. Pete Carmichael dials up a screen pass:

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When Thomas turns back to catch the ball he already has three blockers ready to pave the way for him:

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After two excellent blocks by Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans Thomas reaches the marker with one more blocker ahead of him. Perfect execution.

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Result of the play: first down New Orleans (and much more).

DELAYED HITCH

As we’ve seen Thomas still has initial burning speed and the Saints can rely on him as a checkdown option when they need a little chunk of yards.

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Thomas initially helps with the protection and then slips out of the backfield:

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Tremendous effort here with the broken tackle:

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Result of the play: first down New Orleans.

RUNNING GAME

After and 8-yard run on the previous play Thomas must close the down on another run play:

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He breaks a tackle in the backfield…

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…and finishes the play going forward once again:

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Result of the play: first down New Orleans.

PASS PROTECTION

Thomas is the most reliable back in pass protection and he shows his tremendous skills on this play:

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Indy brings pressure with 5 men and Thomas helps against the A-gap pressure:

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Initially Thomas helps the center against #52 and then shifts towards #55. He is able to maintain his block long enough to allow Drew Brees to climb up the pocket and hit Colston on a deep out route.

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Result of the play: first down New Orleans.

You may ask now:” What’s the point of this article?” Well, I wrote this piece to show you how the departure of Darren Sproles might be a blessing in disguise for this offense. Hear me out: when the Saints’ backfield featured Sproles, Thomas and Ingram opposing defensive coordinators already knew what was coming when the Saints were still in the huddle.

Sproles = pass/screen, Thomas = screen/run, Ingram = run.

Now that we’ve seen that Pierre Thomas can do it all and he does it efficiently the Saints offense gains more UNPREDICTABILITY and it is therefore harder to stop.

Ideally all three backs should be able to do everything. Even if that seems almost impossible Sean Payton is trying to do it (of course he is): we’ve seen Ingram involved in the screen game and in pass protection more than he ever did in his tenure with the Saints and Robinson is getting there too, pass protection aside.

They’re not complete running backs as Pierre Thomas – yet. Beware NFL, because when they do the Saints will be unstoppable.

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