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Saints answering questions about run game emphatically

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; METAIRIE, La. ― Carl Nicks didn’t pull cars, lift barrels full of water or put giant, heavy balls of steel high atop platforms like in world’s strongest man competitions. Neither did Jahri Evans, Jon Stinchcomb nor any of the other ...

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Old 10-08-2009, 12:21 AM   #1
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METAIRIE, La. ― Carl Nicks didn’t pull cars, lift barrels full of water or put giant, heavy balls of steel high atop platforms like in world’s strongest man competitions.

Neither did Jahri Evans, Jon Stinchcomb nor any of the other Saints offensive linemen.

What they did do, though, was take personally attacks on their manhood and livelihood.

“As offensive linemen, you’ve only got two jobs – to run block and pass block,” Nicks said Tuesday, less than 48 hours after a strong run game helped the Saints improve to 4-0 for only the third time in franchise history.

The Associated Press

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas (23) tries to get away from New York Jets cornerback Dwight Lowery (21) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009.
“When somebody says you can’t run, they’re saying you really can’t do your job. We did take offense to it, but we just wanted to prove we could run. We have been and we’re going to continue to do it.”

After two years of hearing that New Orleans was a finesse team – and it was hard to argue, what with quarterback Drew Brees throwing for combined 9,492 yards and the run game having no 1,000-yard rusher – enough was enough.

Through four games in 2009, the Saints are proving their critics wrong.

New Orleans ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (166.3) and is fifth in rushing yards per carry (4.96). It’s the best the Saints have ever been in the four years of the Sean Payton regime.

No Deuce McAllister? No problem, not with a renewed interest in running the football inside the Airline Drive headquarters.

Mike Bell is on pace for 1,374 yards while Pierre Thomas is on pace for 1,272.

“That’s our main focus, establishing a running game,” said Thomas, who missed much of the first two weeks with a sprained right medial collateral ligament. “We’re trying to get our running game going and get it up there with our passing game so we can become ever more of a balanced team.”

In 2006, the last time the Saints made the playoffs, the team was 19th in rushing yards per game (110.1). A year later, the average went down to 91.6 yards and the ranking shot up to 28th. This past season, Payton’s run game was up to 99.6 yards, but that still was mired at No. 28 in the NFL.

The Associated Press

New Orleans Saints' Mike Bell (21) runs by Houston Texans' Dominique Barber (34) for a first down during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009, in Houston
The yards this year have come against a couple of good defenses, too. Philadelphia’s run defense is ranked No. 15 while the Jets are 13th.

In fact, the Saints are averaging 53 rushing yards per game more than the NFL average.

So what changed?

Very little, actually.

Other than Bell and fullback Heath Evans, the backfield is the same and the line has four of the same players. Only the left tackle is different, where Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief have split time in place of Jammal Brown, who is on IR after having surgery to repair a sports hernia and a hip injury.

According to both Thomas and Stinchcomb, it has more to do with perfecting the scheme than anything else.

“Northing too much changed,” Thomas said. “We focused on our schemes. We really got down to the basics and just tried to polish it up and get a lot better at it. That’s what we’ve been doing. We’re actually reading our blocks a lot better and reading our keys and hitting the holes a lot faster.”

“Each person has a point on the defender they’re supposed to get to and when you’re short or you overshoot it, it affects the entire scheme,” Stinchcomb said. “It’s pretty important to get where you’re supposed to be, not just block the man that you’ve got, but how you block him and where you’re at when you make contact. That’s a big determining factor.”

And that wasn’t happening the past two seasons.

“The margin is very small,” Stinchcomb said. “You look at teams that are successful and teams that struggle and the difference is pretty minimal.”

Saints answering questions about run game emphatically | News for New Orleans, Louisiana | Top Stories | News and Weather for New Orleans | wwltv.com

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