As we await the Saints second August football game that no one will remember by October we have been delivered the first crisis of 2010 with the question of who will be the Saints third string running back.

Maybe it's not a crisis. The quarterback situation under Mike Ditka or the thought of Tebucky Jones playing safety were legitimate preseason crises. What lucky running back gets to run for about 500 yards and six touchdowns for the World Champion Saints isn't so much a crisis as it is something to actually pay attention to during games that usually bore us to tears.

Any injury to a Saints player in training camp concerns me because it means the Saints won't be as good at a certain position as I originally thought but I am usually more concerned with how the injury affects the Saints win total than how it affects the injured player.

For some reason the Lynell Hamilton injury really bummed me out. I just felt really bad for Hamilton. He was an undrafted free agent who was finally about to hit the big time. He was probably looking at 600 yards rushing and 8-10 scores on the defending Super Bowl Champ. Now his NFL career might be over.

That just sucks. The NFL unfortunately holds no pity parties and just keeps moving along.

The Saints have brought in Ladell Betts to compete with Chris Ivory and P.J. Hill for the third running back spot.

Betts is the odds on favorite but what can the Saints hope for from a guy who has rushed for more than 375 yards in a season exactly one time? The Saints of course aren't expecting Betts to carry the load at running back but they need him be the equivalent of something between 2008 Deuce McAllister (418 yard, 5 TDs) and 2009 Mike Bell (654 yards, 5 TDs).

Basically the Saints need Betts to have the second best season of his career. Did I mention he's also 30 and coming off major knee surgery? He looks a lot like Deuce McAllister with out all the TDs and yards.

Betts as the answer seems unlikely to me but if it's any consolation Mike Bell faded in the second half of the season in '09 and wasn't a factor in the playoffs. He never had more than 50 yards rushing after Week 11 and the Saints still won it all but they never scored less than 38 points in games Bell rushed for at least 45 yards. So Bell was an important piece when the Saints offense operated at peak efficiency.

Betts won't play this week so you have to figure he'll get an extended look next week against the Chargers so Hill and Ivory really need to have a good week against the Texans if they want to make the team.

Besides the question at running back the only other thing I'm watching this preseason with any real interest is the kick coverage teams. They've been awful going on three years and it's a credit to the Saints offensive firepower and the infrequency of punts that has kept it from being a huge issue.
The Saints coverage teams were so bad last year Sean Payton used some starters during the playoffs to
try to fix the season long issue. He can't play that card all season long without risking injuries but if the coverage teams continue to be a grease fire the Saints will get burned this season.

If you want to fawn over Adrian Arrington and Junior Galette feel free. I'll enjoy the 6,000 comment thread from message board guy when Arrington scores twice against a horrid Houston secondary. He's the second coming of the second coming don't you know!

I've never been so anxious for a preseason to end. Partly it's the anticipation of Farveapolooza but mostly it's because the Saints won the Super Bowl.

When Jim Haslett was the coach the Saints year after year had presnap penalties on offense and a chronic inability to line up correctly on defense so seeing it in the preseason meant we'd see it in games that counted. It was if seeing the Saints play bad in the preseason crushed all our hopes and dreams before the season even started. NOTHING'S DIFFERENT HASLETT! WHY DO I TORTURE MYSELF BY CONVINCING MYSELF THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT?

Now not so much.

The Saints just won the Super Bowl so any potential problem in the preseason will be blown off quicker than that door to door salesman in your neighborhood.

I almost miss yelling horrible things at Wayne Gandy and Courtney Watson. (Reason#1267 winning a Super Bowl rocks: Memories of garbage Saints teams have suddenly turned from painful to comic.)
The preseason is lamer than usual please wake me in September.

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at, find him on facebook, or listen to his Saints podcast at

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