this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; RUSH TO JUDGMENT Saints have four vying for No. 3 running back spot Monday, August 16, 2004 By Brian Allee-Walsh Staff writer In recent years, the camp battle for the No. 3 running back spot on the Saints' roster would ...
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RUSH TO JUDGMENT
Saints have four vying for No. 3 running back spot
Monday, August 16, 2004
By Brian Allee-Walsh
In recent years, the camp battle for the No. 3 running back spot on the Saints' roster would generate little more than a cursory glance.
But it becomes more intriguing this year because it involves Ki-Jana Carter, the No. 1 overall pick of the 1995 draft, and Lamar Smith, a former 1,000-yard rusher.
After 20 practices and one exhibition, Saints' coaches say the two are virtually in a dead heat, with veteran free agent Ronney Jenkins and Tavian Banks pushing them both.
In other words, no one has distanced himself from the others.
"It's very close as evidenced in the way they played the other night against the Jets," Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy said. "We're trying to split Lamar and Ki-Jana right down the middle in reps. We're trying to give them an equal opportunity to win the job."
Said Coach Jim Haslett: "I think it's wide open."
What adds to the drama is whoever wins the No. 3 job, behind Deuce McAllister and Aaron Stecker, likely would become the featured back if McAllister were injured. Smith has performed that function in previous stops at Seattle, New Orleans, Miami and Carolina.
Carter, who's been plagued by injuries throughout his career, was the featured back for several seasons at Cincinnati.
Stecker, who also returns kicks, is viewed as a third-down back and not an every-down player. Jenkins is a similar-type player, suggesting Haslett won't keep both Stecker and Jenkins.
"Each guy has a unique element that he brings to the table as the No. 3 halfback," McCarthy said. "I don't want to stereotype that position. Being able to play special teams is a factor but we also benefit from Aaron Stecker being an excellent special teams player.
"Right now, I'm looking for the best halfback to complement our offense. We're looking for the best player at that position who gives us the flexibility, if God forbid something would happen to Deuce, that we can continue to go on and be aggressive in our schematic design week in and week out."
Stecker rushed 11 times for a team-high 42 yards against the Jets. Carter rushed once for 4 yards, Smith four times for 2 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run, and Jenkins three times for 2 yards.
"It's a friendly competition," Carter said. "I just try to go out there and do the best I can. I was here last year and I feel comfortable with the offense. So I'm not only helping Lamar but I'm helping out the young guys, and then just let the chips fall where they may."
Smith, who emerged as a full-time starter with the Miami Dolphins in 2000 and '01 when he rushed for 1,139 and 968 yards, is trying to shed some pounds to increase his speed.
Presently, he weighs 237 but wants to get down to 230.
"All I have to do is go out there and compete and do my job to the best of my ability," Smith said. "I have to play hard and play mistake-free and not turn the ball over."
Smith signed with the Saints for the final month of the 2003 season after Carter was placed on injured reserve with a sprained toe. Smith appeared in four games, rushing 11 times for 61 yards.
"I'm getting there with the playbook," he said. "It's more about me going out there and playing and not going out there and thinking and hesitating. But I'm getting there."