this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Versatile McAllister vital cog in Saints' offense 09/13/03 Versatile McAllister vital cog in Saints' offense By LES EAST New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister finished second in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with 1,740 last season. METAIRIE -- ...
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Versatile McAllister vital cog in Saints' offense 09/13/03
Versatile McAllister vital cog in Saints' offense
By LES EAST
New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister finished second in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with 1,740 last season.
METAIRIE -- Even when opponents take the New Orleans Saints out of their offensive game plan, they can't take Deuce McAllister out of the Saints' offense.
That was demonstrated in the Saints' 27-10 loss at Seattle last Sunday.
New Orleans began the game clearly intent on feeding McAllister the ball early and often in the running game. He had 12 carries for 44 yards and two pass receptions for nine yards in the first half.
But when the Saints fell behind, 24-3, in the third quarter, they changed their play-calling to play catch-up. Still, McAllister was the focal point, carrying 10 times for 55 yards and catching six passes for 26 yards after halftime.
He finished with 99 of the Saints' 103 rushing yards and tied wide receiver Donte Stallworth for the most receptions on the team, a career-high eight.
"When we get down like we did I can still be involved in the passing game," McAllister said. "We'll try to get me the ball in space." McAllister said catching passes was a point of emphasis for him during the offseason. He led the NFC in rushing last season with 1,388 yards, one more than the Giants' Tiki Barber, and was named a starter in the Pro Bowl despite missing one game and being slowed in 5ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ others by a sprained ankle.
He had the second-most rushing yards in Saints history, behind only George Rogers' 1,674 in 1981. His 13 rushing touchdowns tied the team record shared by Rogers and Dalton Hilliard. McAllister, in just his second season and first as a starter, finished second to Barber in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with 1,740.
The Saints, who play Houston in their home opener Sunday in the Superdome, believe McAllister can be more productive in the passing game. He caught 47 passes last season, second-most on the team, and running backs coach Dave Atkins would like to see that number grow to 65 or so.
"Him coming out of the backfield and running better routes is really going to help him," Atkins said. "They've got to account for him. We want to get more catches out of Deuce this year. He's one of the best all-purpose backs that I've worked with and he can make a big play on a pass as well as a run.
"A lot of backs it's more just the running game, but he has great hands and his ability to run good routes is there. He's really improved in that area.
He caught everything thrown to him Sunday."
Atkins said the Saints also will use McAllister, 6-foot-1, 221 pounds, more often to block on third downs.
"The pass protection is key for him," Atkins said. "He's going to be used more so in a blocking role in pass protection on third down, being able to step up and pick up a linebacker or a safety on a blitz."
Coach Jim Haslett said McAllister's eight receptions were a result of both the intention to throw him the ball more and the Saints' need to try and overcome a large deficit quickly.
"We had to go into the two-minute in the middle of the third quarter, so he got a chance to catch a lot of balls," Haslett said. "Our emphasis is to give Deuce the ball more in some areas in pass receiving. I would like to see him catch 60 balls or more."
Saints tight end Ernie Conwell, who left St. Louis as a free agent after last season to sign with New Orleans, played with Marshall Faulk and saw first-hand the impact that a top-flight running back who's also a top-flight receiver can have.
"You can do all kinds of things with Deuce," Conwell said. "He's a huge back, so you don't have to worry about him in protection. You know he can catch the ball out of the backfield so you don't have to take him out for that. And of course he's a great runner. You can ask him to do just about anything a back can do and you know he'll do it well."
At age 24, McAllister has a chance to put up some rare numbers, particularly on an offense that has Pro Bowl-caliber players at each skill position.
"I want to be like a fine wine and with age and maturity just continue to get better," he said. "Hopefully it'll be better than last year if I'm completely healthy. My goal is to be 100 percent each week and go out there and give the team everything I've got. At the end of the year we'll go back and look at the numbers."
[Edited on 13/9/2003 by JOESAM2002]