Nov 15, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller (28) carries the ball against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
5. C.J. Spiller
Fans and writers alike have spent a great deal of time this season wondering what the heck Sean Payton was thinking signing this guy if he was never going to use him. There are a number of possible theories on this; that he is hurt, that he doesn’t know the playbook, that he is in Payton’s dog house, or my favorite, that Payton simply has forgotten how to use a back like him. These theories have varying degrees of plausibility, but I honestly think the answer is much more simple than any of these — Mark Ingram.
That’s the reason that Spiller has had reduced snaps. Ingram up until this week where he was put on injured reserve was quietly not only having a fantastic season, but was one of the best backs in the NFL. What made that even more impressive is that Ingram has been the total package this year. He runs well, catches the ball well, and most importantly to this discussion, he pass blocks well.
Sean Payton actually mentioned at one point that they were leaving Ingram in a great deal in large part because of his pass blocking. It is the one area where he simply superior to C.J. Spiller. Ingram’s ability to protect Drew Brees has become vital because the offensive line has been secretly (not very) kind of awful. The thing about a player like Spiller is that they are best when they are given the ball in space.
However, the Saints line has been so poor that Spiller going in the game is an immediate tell to the defense what the Saints are running, and because they can’t block, Spiller gets stopped in the backfield before he can ever get going. It isn’t that Spiller is unable to make plays (remember Dallas?), nor that Payton can’t think of how to use him, it’s simply that the Saints can’t execute those plays as they are now.
That was the case when Ingram was out there, he was simply the better all-around back. However, with Mark now being on IR it will be very interesting to see if Payton gets Spiller a lot more involved in the offense. Without a true number one to take snaps from him it will be interesting if Payton takes the gamble and tries to get Spiller involved more in the passing AND the running games to find a spark for this team offensively. With the porous offensive line, I still have trouble believing they will be able to get Spiller into advantageous positions consistently, however, the thing about guys with his talent level is they only need one chance to break a game open.
Next: 4. Tyeler Davison