Run, Sean, Run: Relying on running game key to Saints hopes in 2017

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Brennan Scarlett, Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees
Saints QB Drew Brees (#9) hands off the football to RB Adrian Peterson (#28) during the Saints’ preseason home game aganst the Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Photo: Parker Waters).

At the Tuesday meeting of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club, Saints legend and current team radio announcer Deuce McAllister said that the current New Orleans running backs would be “mad” at head coach Sean Payton.

Deuce didn’t say it as a negative.

“Every back wants the ball 20 times a game,” said McAllister.

In the newly reconstructed Saints backfield, Payton has plenty of options.

There’s future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, talented rookie Alvin Kamara and former first-round pick Mark Ingram.

By the way, Ingram had his best year as a pro in 2016, becoming the first Saints running back since McAllister to top the 1,000-yard mark, averaging 5.1 yards a carry and scoring 10 touchdowns. The Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama went from solid NFL back to something much more.

Payton has much from which to choose.

So, let’s see. The strength of this team is its quarterback, a stable of runners and a very good (when healthy) offensive line that has gotten better. Free agent guard Larry Worford and first-round pick tackle Ryan Ramcyzk were key acquisitions.

NFL game plans can change quite a bit as the opponent changes.

But let’s hope Saints coach Sean Payton has plenty of running plays on his play sheet.

Here’s a few numbers from 2016.

When Drew Brees threw it less than 40 times, the Saints went 5-1. That sole loss was a fluke, when the Broncos blocked the potential game-winning point after touchdown and ran it back for two points.

Here’s another good one.

In 2016, four teams held the ball for more than 31 minutes a game. Dallas, Green Bay, Houston and New England combined for a regular season record of 46-18.

Hard to ignore that.

The Saints were close to that magic mark. They held the ball for 30 minutes and 56 seconds a game. That number needs to go up in 2017.

Keep the football, beat on opponents and keep a suspect defense off the field.

Will the Saints will be better defensively? The effort to improve again in the draft and free agency was earnest. If a few of those rookies and veterans play well, the Saints have a chance to actually make a step forward.

Who knows?

I do know this though. Play to your strengths; hide your weaknesses.

The numbers say that if the Saints have more balance, they win more games.

In 2016, with a host of foulups in the kicking game and way too much passing, the Saints still won seven games. Despite throwing the ball 270 times more than they ran it, New Orleans was not far off from a winning season.

So, run Sean run.

Don’t give balance lip service, Coach. Go for it.

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Ed Daniels

Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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