METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer is in charge of the offensive line and helps formulate the teams run attack each week during the regular season.
But keeping five running backs on a roster for a team that’s better known for the passing game – that’s just crazy, right?
“You can dream, can’t you?” Kromer said.
For Kromer, dreams do come true, apparently. The Saints take five running backs into the 2012 season opener against the Washington Redskins, a first for this coaching staff.
Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles were all but certain to be retained. And Chris Ivory was a good bet heading into training camp.
But the emergence of undrafted rookie free agent Travaris Cadet during the preseason produced a conundrum – release him and hope the diamond in the rough gets through waivers or keep him on the roster and cut depth short at another position.
The Saints chose the latter, proving once again that they’re a franchise built on putting the most-talented players on the team and not just working from a roster formula.
“It was a hard decision but a smart decision,” Kromer said. “That is what (General Manager) Mickey Loomis and (Director of Pro Scouting) Ryan Pace do. They say who are the best football players we can keep on this team? We will find a way to use them.
“There is no way you are going to let some of these guys out of the building even if they are one more in the position that you are loaded in. You need to keep good players.”
The Saints know just what depth – or lack of – means at running back. In the past two seasons, New Orleans’ playoff life ended partly because of issues with health at the position.
Said Cadet, “You’ve got Pierre, Darren, Ingram, Ivory – you’ve got all these good running backs led by Pierre and Darren. My thought process was, ‘Well, I’ve got to take advantage of every rep I get.’ Because these guys, it’s not just one guy that’s good.”
In January 2011, the Saints went into Seattle without Thomas or Ivory. Reggie Bush was injured during the game, leaving New Orleans with only journeyman running back Julius Jones.
In January 2012, Ingram was on IR by the playoff loss at San Francisco. And after the first series, Thomas was no longer playing because of a concussion. Sproles carried the load, with Ivory getting the occasional carry.
“To me it says they like, they love and they love what they have,” Ivory said. “They don’t want to let what they love go away. They’re willing to keep all to their advantage and if someone were to go down, they know they have a guy that’s just as good.”
New Orleans’ opponent this weekend, the Washington Redskins, could use some of the Saints’ depth. Injuries have hampered their development and coach Mike Shanahan knows exactly what the Saints have on their roster.
“I think it was a great move because if they didn’t keep all five of them, one of them or two of them would have been claimed,” Shanahan said.