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JOESAM2002 05-17-2003 06:04 PM

The world according to Deuce...
 
I found this at NFL.COM by Vin Carucci,

McAllister: Saints need more maturity

By Vic Carucci
National Editor, NFL.com


(May 16, 2003) -- After his rookie year in 2001, Deuce McAllister made the physical adjustments necessary to handle the rigors of a long NFL season and to make a big enough impact to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl.

McAllister has devoted his second offseason with the New Orleans Saints to addressing an area located above his shoulder pads. He hopes his teammates will do the same.

"One thing is maturity," McAllister says when asked where the Saints can improve the most. "We have to have our veterans step up. Our leaders have to lead, even if you're not a veteran."

After two NFL seasons and only one year as a starter, McAllister barely qualifies as a veteran. But he has moved into a leadership role, if only because he has emerged as one of the best and most productive players on the team.

Last season, he led the NFC with 1,388 rushing yards on 325 carries. He generated an additional 352 yards on 47 pass receptions. In short, McAllister became a more than sufficient replacement for Ricky Williams, whom the Saints traded to the Miami Dolphins .

But McAllister felt a sense of emptiness when the year was over because the Saints, after losing their final three games, missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

"We've just got to try to be mature and try to be smart down the stretch," he says. "I think we felt like we had one of the best teams, if we could just get in the playoffs. But it didn't happen."

The problem wasn't so much a lack of focus. It was an inability to handle negative developments. It was a tendency to make bad situations worse rather than coping with them. A crushing one-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 15 mushroomed into a three-game losing streak to close the schedule.

The Saints also didn't do a good job of dealing with injuries, beginning with the severely sprained ankle McAllister suffered Nov. 17 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints were 7-2 before that game, and proceeded to lose five of their next seven games. Quarterback Aaron Brooks had a shoulder injury through the final four games, and the Saints dropped three.


Now a Pro Bowl running back, Deuce McAllister will strive to become an effective leader.

"I don't think it was lack of focus by any means because each week we would go out and have a heck of a practice," McAllister says. "It was just that one or two (bad) things would happen and we never could recover from them."

Although McAllister did a good job of overcoming his injury, he was far more effective in the first eight games of the season, with six 100-yard rushing performances, than he was through the last eight, with only two (although he did have a 99-yard outing against Tampa Bay ).

McAllister noticed a remarkable difference after gaining 10 to 15 pounds of mostly muscle after his rookie year for a playing weight that ranged between 230 to 235 pounds in his second season. He became much stronger, but didn't lose the ability to be a breakaway threat. He also felt he had greater stamina to cope with a 16-game schedule. Even with a sore ankle, he was physically ready to play more football after December.

"Guys who hadn't seen me before say, 'Dang, you're a big running back,' " McAllister says. "It was a good weight because I still kept my speed and quickness. That's my game. I try to use power as well as speed. I have deceptive speed. I've been able to run away from guys a lot of times and then be able to still have that hard four or five yards."

A large part of McAllister's offseason work has been on improving his pass-blocking skills, which become vital when he assumes a fullback role in three-receiver and two-tight end sets.

Meanwhile, the Saints' coaches are figuring out ways to improve their offensive and defensive strategy. Jim Haslett and his assistants have done an extensive study of the team's successes and failures of the previous year, as well as what opponents did and are expected to do. They will place a great deal of concentration on their own tendencies, one of which, according to McAllister, was too often running him behind a fullback.

"(Opponents) definitely picked up on that and it kind of hindered us some," he says. "Defenses started really stunting their fronts, just giving us a lot of run blitzes and blitzing towards or stunting towards the fullback."

Nevertheless, McAllister saw tremendous growth and development in one season as a starter. All he needs are more opportunities, and he should be able to perform at least as well as he did in 2002, if not better.

"I think when I touch the ball 20-25 times a game," McAllister says, "I can be as productive as any back in the league."

With greater maturity on the part of McAllister and his teammates, that production has a better chance of resulting in a playoff appearance.



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