Jim Henderson / Sports Director
First impressions are said to last, but it was the last impression the Saints made in exiting the playoffs with a stunning wild card loss to Seattle that they addressed first with a number of moves in this offseason that have them back on top in the NFC South.
In that 41-36 loss the Saints were decimated at the running back position and lost Reggie Bush in the course of it. Drew Brees actually had a longer run and a better yards-per-carry average than Bush in the defeat.
Conclusion… we need more depth and talent at the running back position.
Acquisition… Mark Ingram I n the first round of the draft. Acquisition… Darren Sproles in free agency, who not only provided running back depth, but another threat in the passing game and a solution for the Saints’ lackluster return game.
Against Seattle, Lance Moore was the punt returner, primarily just there to provide a more sure-handed alternative though a lesser threat than Bush whose fragility couldn’t be risked again in that role. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem returned kickoffs against Seattle. The addition of Sproles made the Saints better in four areas and provided a greater and more consistent concern for opponents in the passing game.
Monday night, when the Saints spread the Giants out with multiple receiver sets, they rushed for 152 yards, a 5.8 yards per carry average when the Giants had five or more defensive backs on the field.
Against Seattle, with Jimmy Graham out with an injury, Jeremy Shockey caught two passes. Fellow tight end David Thomas had twice as many catches.
Conclusion… We can do without Shockey. We can’t do nearly as much without Graham. Monday night he had two more touchdowns. Graham now has 17 receptions of 15 or more yards downfield – number one among the league’s tight ends as the biggest matchup headache for defensive coordinators in the league.
All of this is not to say those conclusions may not have been reached without the loss in Seattle, only that the evidence for them was underscored in that defeat.
Ingram, Sproles and Graham are three of the reasons why the St. Louis Rams’ NFL record for yards in a season in 2000 may not stand after 2011.
The “Greatest Show on Turf” may yield it to the “Greatest Show on Mardi Grass.”