Saints By Position: Top 5 running backs in franchise history
It is a glamour position on an NFL roster.
It is also a low longevity rate position, one which frequently sees either shorter careers or careers that peak early, due to wear and tear.
Running back has evolved from a big, pound it 25-30 times per game type of back to a player who can perform well in space and can figure more in the passing game.
NFL teams are more apt to move on from very good running backs quicker than at perhaps any other position in the league.
The New Orleans Saints have been blessed with several good backs.
Here are my top five and the top two are tied together:
1) Deuce McAllister and Mark Ingram (tie)
3) Dalton Hilliard
4) Pierre Thomas
5) George Rogers
Trying to separate McAllister and Ingram is virtually impossible.
Both played the same number of years.
In total yards from scrimmage, Deuce had 7,816 yards while Ingram had 7,852 yards.
In yards per carry, McAllister was a 4.3 while Ingram averaged 4.5.
Deuce went to a pair of Pro Bowls while Ingram went to three.
To the naked eye, McAllister was the more impressive player. When arriving in the league, he was big and fast for his size, having a great beginning. Injuries curtailed two of his seasons.
Ingram was more of the solid player whom you had to watch from start to finish to appreciate his consistently good play and was dependable and got better as his career went along.
In eight seasons, McAllister became the leading rusher in franchise history, rushing for 6,096 yards and 49 touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. McCalister caught 234 passes for 1,720 yards and five touchdowns. McAalister returned 45 kickoffs for an average of 24.2 yards per return.
McAllister rushed for over 1,000 yards four times. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2002 and 2003. Deuce ran for 1,388 yards, fourth in the NFL, along with 13 touchdowns sixth in the league, in 2002 and rushed for 1,641 yards and eight touchdowns in 2003.
McAllister played in 97 games starting 76. His career was cut short by lingering knee issues. Deuce was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2012.
In eight seasons, Ingram narrowly missed becoming the all-time leading rusher in franchise history. Ingram rushed for 6,007 yards and 50 touchdowns and caught 254 passes for 1,845 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Ingram rushed for over 1,000 yards three times with his best season coming in 2017 when he ran for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns and he caught 58 passes for 416 yards. Ingram earned Pro Bowl honors in 2014, 2017 and 2019.
Ingram was second in the NFL with his 12 touchdowns rushing in 2017 and was third with nine rushing scores in 2014. Ingram was fifth in the NFL, averaging 5.1 yards per carry in 2016 and was fourth in the league in 2017, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
In eight seasons, Dalton Hilliard amassed 4,164 yards and 39 touchdowns rushing. Hilliard added 249 catches for 2,233 yards and 14 touchdowns receiving. He returned 25 kickoffs for an average of 21 yards. Hilliard even threw four touchdown passes.
Hilliard had his best season in 1989, reaching the Pro Bowl in richly deserved fashion. In that season, Hilliard rushed for 1,262 yards, fifth in the NFL, along with 13 touchdowns and had 52 catches for 514 yard and five touchdowns and passed for another score. Hilliard led the NFL with 18 touchdowns also led the league with 396 touches in 1989.
A knee injury in 1990 slowed Hilliard down and he was never the same player after that, retiring following the 1993 season. Hilliard was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1998.
Pierre Thomas was not even supposed to make the team.
Thomas was not even drafted and was a long shot when he went to training camp in 2007. He defied the odds, beating out a draft choice and helped the Saints beat opponents for the next eight seasons.
Thomas was a complete back, a very good one-cut runner, a fine receiver and a willing blocker.
He played in 110 games, starting just 38 but that was not an indication of how important he was to the franchise.
Thomas rushed for 3,809 yards and 28 touchdowns and caught 336 passes for 2,692 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas had his best season in 2009, when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV. Thomas rushed for 793 yards and six touchdowns. Thomas caught 39 passes for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Thomas caught a 16-yard screen pass for a touchdown from Drew Brees in the 31-17 Super Bowl victory over Indianapolis.
In the 31-28 victory in overtime over Minnesota in the NFC championship game, Thomas had a huge kickoff return of 40 yards to start overtime and converted a huge fourth-and-inches situation to keep the game-winning drive alive. He ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass in that big win. He returned 83 kickoffs for an average of 23.7 yards.
Thomas was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2018.
George Rogers was the top overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft.
The Saints and Bum Phillips chose Rogers ahead of Lawrence Taylor, who went to the New York Giants.
While Taylor turned into perhaps the best linebacker ever, certainly the best outside linebacker, Rogers was good, actually great, initially. Fortunately, the Saints were able to get their own Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker in Rickey Jackson in the second round of the same draft.
Rogers burst on the scene and was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1981, when he set an NFL rookie rushing record. Rogers led the league with 378 carries and led the league with 1,674 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns. Rogers caught 16 passes for 126 yards. Rogers earned first team All-Pro honors and went to the Pro Bowl.
Rogers was off to a good start in 1982 but an injury and the NFL players strike cost him what could have been a huge season. Still, he earned a second Pro Bowl honor.
Rogers rushed for 1,144 yards in 1993 with five touchdowns and had 12 catches for 69 yards. Rogers played in 51 games, starting 49. In his four years with the Saints, Rogers rushed for 4,267 yards and 23 touchdowns and caught 44 passes for 292 yards.
Rogers was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1992.
Up next, we will start with the offensive line at the center position.
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