Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter

METAIRIE, La. When the Saints moved into the first round of April's draft to take Mark Ingram, it was a sign the coach Sean Payton was going to try to balance his offense back to 2009 levels, when the Saints won the Super Bowl.

In that Super Bowl-winning season, the Saints were the No. 1 overall offense, finishing No. 6 in rushing (131.6 ypg) and No. 4 in passing (272.2 ypg).

But a year later, in going 11-5 and bowing out in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Saints run game took a hit.

Pierre Thomas missed 10 games with an ankle injury. Reggie Bush was out eight weeks with a knee injury. Chris Ivory, who emerged in the middle of the season, played in 12 games, missing games with a hamstring injury before going on injured reserve after the regular season finale with a foot injury.

Because of the injury issues, the Saints dropped to the 28th in the NFL in rushing.

Now, heading into the season-opener at Green Bay, Thomas believes the Saints will be closer to 2009 than 2010.

'It doesn't start with me,' Thomas said. 'It starts with all of us. It's not just me. We've got a three-back rotation, a three-headed monster again.'

Indeed, Ingram won the first Heisman Trophy ever awarded to an Alabama player on the strength of a standout sophomore season in 2009. He rushed for 1,658 yards and 17 touchdown, catching 32 passes for 334 yards and additional three touchdowns.

Meanwhile, New Orleans after dishing Bush to Miami signed unrestricted free agent Darren Sproles, a seventh-year pro who leads the NFL in all-purpose yards since 2007 with 8,260.

'When you've got a good group of guys at one position, especially at running back, you want to utilize us as much as you can,' Thomas said. 'We all have different talents and different aspects we can bring to the game.

'You want to use that in your offense. It creates a dangerous offense.'

And that's not even mentioning Joique Bell, who earned his way onto the team after leading the team in rushing this preseason, going for 182 yards on 31 carries for a 5.9 yard per carry average.

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