Why the New Orleans Saints will make the playoffs: No. 3, Rushing attack


The New Orleans Saints finished with 1,818 rushing yards last season, which was good for the league’s 13th best rushing attack. The black and gold turned in ten 100-yard performances as a team. After starting the year strong with five consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, it was the exact opposite at the end of the year. Five of the final seven games saw the Saints struggle heavily, failing to find success running the ball.

Despite the late season struggles, the offense still finished first overall. Boasting the league’s top ranked offense is no easy feat. The Saints have had quite a reputation for production under Sean Payton, never finding themselves out of the top 10.

Team Offense Performance

2014 – 6,582 yards (1st)
2013 – 6,391 yards (4th)
2012 – 6,574 yards (2nd)
2011 – 7,474 yards (1st)
2010 – 5,960 yards (6th)
2009 – 6,461 yards (1st)

The Saints also ranked first in total yards for the 2006 and 2008 seasons, and finished fourth in 2007. Needless to say, the firepower is there regardless of the personnel.

Heading into a new season, the backfield only improved with the addition of C.J. Spiller. It was difficult to see the team part ways with fan favorite Pierre Thomas, and it’s even more mind-boggling that no team has picked up his services yet. However, C.J. Spiller will plug-in nicely, and keep the Saints offense from missing a beat. He’s a very dynamic weapon, and has a very unique rushing style that will bring a change of pace to the offense.

Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson return to the mix, and only look to capitalize on their combined 1,362 rushing yards last year. Fresh off a new contract, Ingram is primed for a strong year, but his amount of reps are clearly a question mark. Robinson finds himself in the same boat, but his successes last year cannot be ignored.

Needless to say, having depth at an important position isn’t a bad thing. On paper, it’s a strong trio of running backs.

Part two of the equation for the rushing attack is the offensive line support, which will be there for Sean Payton’s squad. Most of the worry lies in the guard position, but here’s where we can feel more confident. In the two games that Tim Lelito had to sub in as guard in 2013, the Saints rushing attack finished with 104 (Week 3 – Arizona) and 103 rushing yards (Week 12 – at Atlanta). I’ve long been in Lelito’s corner, and encourage you to watch his tape.

Lelito and the rest of the Saints offensive line will receive a major increase in production with All-Pro center Max Unger. Last year, the Seattle Seahawks finished with the league’s best rushing attack with 2,762 rushing yards, averaging over 5.3 yards per carry.

Five games saw the Seahawks finish with 200 yards or better on the ground, and Unger only missed one of the contests (Week 16 – Arizona). Despite appearing in only six regular season games last year, the production was astounding. With Unger in the mix, the team collectively rushed for 1,223 over a six game span, which accounted for 44.2 percent of the team’s total.

Week 1 – Green Bay (207 yards)
Week 2 – at San Diego (108 yards)
Week 3 – Denver (129 yards)
Week 4 – at Washington (225 yards)
Week 9 – New York Giants (350 yards)
Week 10 – at Kansas City (204 yards)

If you’re still not sold on what Max Unger brings to the Saints offense, be sure to check out my colleague’s film assessment.

With a three-headed hydra of Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, and Khiry Robinson running behind a revamped and healthy offensive line, the New Orleans Saints can find themselves relieving pressure off of quarterback Drew Brees. In the end, a strong rushing attack clearly helps control the tempo and could be yet another reason why the Saints find themselves in the playoffs for 2015.

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