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Running back questions dominate today's New Orleans Saints mailbag

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Running back questions dominate today's New Orleans Saints mailbag By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune October 30, 2009, 5:53PM Here's today's long-awaited, much-anticipated edition of the Saints Mailbag. Most of today's questions focus on the team's running back position, with an ...

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Old 10-30-2009, 11:07 PM   #1
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Running back questions dominate today's New Orleans Saints mailbag

Running back questions dominate today's New Orleans Saints mailbag
By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune
October 30, 2009, 5:53PM
Here's today's long-awaited, much-anticipated edition of the Saints Mailbag. Most of today's questions focus on the team's running back position, with an emphasis on the most controversial player on the roster, Reggie Bush.
This is the second of five consecutive mailbag files. I'll have others on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to get you ready for the big showdown against the Falcons at the Superdome.
Here's today's Q&A:

Q: Concering Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas, is one necessarily better than the other? It seems that they alternate a lot. Do you think one will eventually stand out as a stronger running back? If so, which one? Also, what's the deal with Reggie Bush?? I've been a big supporter and fan of him, but it does seem he is not having the same effectiveness returning punts. Can you shed some light as to why he's not having the same success? Lynne Firmin, New Orleans.
A: Lynne, Bell and Thomas are very similar runners, but they each have their strengths. Bell is definitely the most punishing runner on the roster. He's not afraid to lower his shoulder and get the tough yards between the tackles. Thomas just has a nice way of slipping tackles and making himself small in the hole to gain extra yards. He always falls forward for extra yardage. I like the rotation Sean Payton has installed for the three backs. He uses Thomas on running downs early in the game, then goes to Bell in short-yardage situations and the fourth quarter to close the game. Bush, of course, is the satellite back. He plays primarily on passing downs and in the two-minute offense. I'm dumbfounded by the Saints' problems on punt returns. Payton pointed to a number of factors, blaming the middle blocking, etc. But Bush has contributed to the sub-par average with his indecisiveness. No one's mentioned this yet, but it looks to me like he's lost a half-step since the offseason surgery, as well. That can be a huge factor for a player with his running skills. He's still very fast but doesn't quite have the explosive burst he had coming out of college.
Q: What did you think of Reggie Bush's comments this week? I tend to agree with him about the potential to go undefeated this year, so honestly I do not have an issue with that statement. My question is about the MVP comment. Do you think anyone in the locker room would roll their eyes at his statement that he thinks he can win the league MVP award? Can you comment on how the locker room feels about this? Scott Vierck, Plano, Texas.
A: Bush's unbeaten comments were blown way out of proportion but that's the nature of the Internet beast these days. He's uttered the MVP comment in the past. Before he becomes MVP of the league, he needs to become MVP of his position group first. Then maybe become MVP of the Saints offense. But, hey, you have to admire the guy's confidence. Bush is well-liked in the locker room so I don't think comments like this cause any problems.
Q: Why don't the Saints let bush leap more on the goal line? Eddie Tebbe, New Orleans.
A: Mike Bell is the Saints' short-yardage back so he gets the call in goal-line situations. He's the most powerful and explosive runner on the roster so it makes sense to use him there. No one is preventing Bush from leaping at the goal line. He's just not as big as Bell and
Q: What in the world is wrong with Reggie Bush? He's clearly not the same player he was in the past. He doesn't seem to have either the acceleration or the willingness to take hits anymore. Is it the knee surgeries or something else? My wife's theory is that he just can't deal emotionally with not being the star and focal point of the team. What's your take? Russell, Canton, Ga.
A: There was no way Bush could live up to the enormous expectations that accompanied him from Southern Cal. He's a solid contributor and one of the many versatile weapons in the Saints' high-powered offense, but he clearly is not the player the Saints - and entire NFL for that matter - thought they were getting with the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2006. To be fair, recent injuries have affected Bush's game. I noted earlier that I think he's lost about a half-step of speed and explosiveness because of the knee surgeries. That can be critical for a guy like Bush, who relies heavily on his speed and cutting ability to elude defenders. The disturbing thing for me is that Bush seems to have reverted to his old habit of east-west running in recent weeks. He even drew the ire of Coach Sean Payton in Miami after one sideline dance at the end of a swing pass. In training camp, Bush pledged to run more north and south but we've only seen that in flashes so far this season.
Q: This weeks NFL stats show Reggie Bush at 50th place in the NFL in punt returns with a 4.1 yard average. Reggie has handled 70 punts. If you eliminate the returners with less than 25 returns, then Reggie is dead last in the NFL. Why is he the punt returner? Martin Gauthier, White Castle, La.
A: Regardless of his current average, everyone knows Bush is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL. No doubt, he's off to a slow start but we're just a third of the way through the season. No need to panic just yet. If he returns two punts for touchdowns on Monday night all will be forgotten. Sean Payton has made it a priority to fix the return game. I'll be surprised if Bush's struggles continue.
Q: Would you start -- and feed the ball heavily to -- Mike Bell this week against Atlanta? Frank Martin, Parker, Colo.
A: No, I would work the rotation exactly the way it's been done the past two weeks. Start Bush. Use Thomas in the first three quarters, then bring in Bell to finish the game. No use in fixing something that's not broken.
Q: How do you see Mike Bell's role for the rest of the season? Tom King Jacksonville, Fla.
A: Tom, I see it exactly as it's been the past two weeks. He's the short-yardage back and designated closer in the fourth quarter. Why would Payton change something that's working so well?
Q: With the news of Aaron Stecker getting signed by Atlanta, I'm wondering why we didn't re-sign Deuce to at least fill Lynell Hamilton's spot? My other question is, even though it's a long while away, what positions do you think the Saints will be looking to fill in the upcoming draft? Andrew, Pasadena, Calif.
A: Andrew, when the Saints parted ways with McAllister earlier this year, they did so on a permanent basis. The Saints chose to go with their stable of healthy young runners and so far it's worked out well. And check back with me in February for an early draft prospectus. It's way too early to project which direction the Saints will go. We have more than half the season to play.
Q: I love the camaraderie and team-first attitude that we have this season. With so many talented receivers and running backs, do you see these guys starting to feel like they could get a bigger role by playing on another team next season? I'm not sure whose contracts will be up or who will be going into free agency, but it seems that at some point they will want to fulfill their personal goals and be full-time backs and receivers instead of getting a few yards here and there. Your thoughts? Sabrina, New Orleans.
A: Good question, Sabrina. Successful teams inevitably lose free agents. It's a fact of life in the NFL. If the Saints continue to win, a number of players will be targeted by opposing teams in free agency. Of course, no one knows what's going to happen with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the salary cap. The labor situation will factor heavily into the Saints' plans. It's impossible to know what will happen at this stage but I will say this. The Saints have become an attractive club for players around the league. All things being equal, I think most players will want to stay here and continue to win with Drew Brees than cast their luck elsewhere.

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Old 10-31-2009, 03:52 PM   #2
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Re: Running back questions dominate today's New Orleans Saints mailbag

Mike Bell is the closer...I hadn't thought of it that way. We do have a good rotation and any of them could carry the load alone if necessary.
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