Jan 11, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints running backMark Ingram
(22) runs in for a two-point conversion against Seattle Seahawks strong safetyKam Chancellor
(31) during the second half of the 2013 NFC divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports = New Orleans Saints Running Game
Do we need to run the ball?
Ah, the New Orleans Saints Running Game. Do we have one?
Each year we hear how we ought to run the ball, run it better, run it to keep defenses honest—somehow, just pound dat rock because, after all, this is the NFL. Some even say we don’t really need to run given our passing game just sprinkle a few in now and then.
We all know Drew Brees is a HOF quarterback and can easily lift a team on his shoulders and carry it. He can throw it all around to yard to virtually every receiver but if everyone on defense is dropping back in coverage … well, right, it can get ugly fast. AND… we can see how the lack of a run can keep an opponent’s defense fresh and can keep us from holding onto a lead. (Remember the Panthers and Patriots games?) We need to be able to take control of a game through the run game and maintain this control through our timing and pace. All of which are directly related to efficiently and effectively running the ball.
Our first 15 games last year were a dismal effort in accomplishing any running milestones set at the beginning of the season. (Yes, they were set.) We lost Aaron Kromer (Oline coach) and Jermon Bushrod (left tackle) both to the Bears. In their place, Brett Ingalls (running backs coach) was promoted to Oline coach and Charles Brown took over at left tackle. Coach Ingall put his twist on the new Oline schemes with zone blocking, and the run game dragged as a new system was implemented with new personnel. Charles Brown was there–for a while–until he was removed during the Rams game. So any gains in the running game along the line were set back a bit. The advent of Terron Armstead at left tackle was a boon for pass protection but a new person means progress slows to accommodate a learning curve.
This can be explained by how an Oline works together. Perhaps even more than the defensive line, the Oline functions as a total cohesive unit–the ultimate team within a team. The unit began to jell and march forward. After game 16 (our second game with the Panthers), we saw an uptick in an ability to run the ball which snowballed into the post season.
So why should there be Renewed Hope for the New Orleans Saints Running Game in 2014?
Because Bret Ingalls’ Oline showed immense improvement and domination toward season’s end. Ingalls is getting the Oline to think more along the lines of what they need to do intuitively when a run is called. A player is faster and thus more effective when he doesn’t have to think. If you look at last several games last year, you will note we are running the ball better—enormously better.
The Dallas game in week 10 was an anomaly in the progress of the run game. In that game, Mark Ingram came of age and blew the top off with a sterling 145 yards of rushing. Then, for the next several weeks (until Week 16), we went back to our usual paltry number of rushing yards.
But in Week 16, we took off in an incredible way. As stated by Zach Strief at the end of the 2013 season, we learned the OLine struggled with a new coach and the changes along the line; and it was not until the end of the season that the Oline formed into a cohesive unit—and production followed. This heralds well for the upcoming year with Ingalls back as coach and consistency along the line with a few good changes.
Personnel changes are additional keys to the 2014 revamped OLine not only with the return of Terron Armstead but also the addition of the former Saint savvy vet Jonathan Goodwin. Throw in the maturing Tim Lelito who can play both guard and center as well as the wily Erik Lorig, we are in for a better, more dominate Oline play which bodes well for the 2014 New Orleans Saints Running Game. Each of these personnel changes are veteran upgrades to the line, and in the case of Lelito, he is further along than Charles Brown or Terron Armstead were at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Listen to Strief’s comments from his July 28 press conference on the promise of the 2014 season (Click on the elipsis if the video does not automatically populate:
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