There is hope for the New Orleans Saints Running Game.
Our first 15 games last year were a dismal effort in accomplishing any running goals set at the beginning of the season. We lost Aaron Kromer (Oline coach) and Jermon Bushrod (left tackle) both to the Bears. In their place, Brett Ingalls (running backs coach) was promoted to Oline coach and Charles Brown took over at left tackle. Coach Ingall changed the former OLine scheme to a zone blocking scheme. As a consequence, the run game dragged at the beginning of the season as a new system was implemented with new personnel. Charles Brown was there–for a while–until he was removed during the Rams game. So any gains in the running game along the Oline were set back a bit after the Rams game. The advent of Terron Armstead at left tackle was a boon for pass protection but a new person means progress slows to accommodate a rookie learning curve.
This learning progression can be explained by how an Oline works together. Perhaps even more than the defensive line, the Oline functions as a total cohesive unit–the ultimate team within a team. After Week 16, the unit began to jell and march forward. After game 16 (our second game with the Panthers), we saw an uptick in an ability to run the ball which snowballed into the post season.
Bret Ingalls’ Oline showed immense improvement and domination toward season’s end. Ingalls is getting the Oline to think more along the lines of what they need to do intuitively when a run is called. A player is faster and thus more effective when he doesn’t have to think but react. If you look at last several games last year, you will note we are running the ball better—enormously better.
A word about the zone-blocking scheme (ZBS) from an article written by Steel34D . On the individual level, the foundation of the ZBS is footwork, blocking rules and communication along the offensive line. As a whole the ZBS is founded on the principles of getting movement either laterally, vertically or both along the defensive front. Most importantly it is about preventing penetration across the line and into the backfield. Finally it is also about keeping the defense off balance by running multiple plays from the same formation. The ZBS scheme relies on angles to win not power … The footwork of the men in the trenches is vital to establishing these angles … Most importantly the offensive line has to work in unison. Each player has to know what the man next to them is thinking and there needs to be little to no hesitation. A perfectly executed zone play is like a well-choreographed dance … A running back that has this vision and quick feet, not necessarily speed, will succeed in the zone blocking scheme …
The Dallas game in week 10 was an anomaly in the progress of the run game. In that game, Mark Ingram came of age and blew the top off with a unheralded 145 yards of rushing. Then, for the next several weeks (until Week 16), we went back to our usual paltry number of rushing yards.
But in Week 16, we took off in an incredible way. As stated by Zach Strief at the end of the 2013 season in an interview, we learned the OLine struggled with a new coach, scheme, and the changes along the line; and it was not until the end of the season that the Oline formed into a cohesive unit—and production followed. This bodes well for the upcoming year with Ingalls back as coach and consistency along the line with a few good changes.
Personnel changes are additional keys to the 2014 revamped OLine not only with the return of Terron Armstead but also the addition of the former Saint and savvy vet Jonathan Goodwin. Throw in the maturing Tim Lelito who can play both guard and center as well as the wily and physical Erik Lorig, we are in for a better, more dominate Oline play which means the 2014 New Orleans Saints Running Game may be able to move the ball better than before. Each of these personnel changes are veteran upgrades to the line, and in the case of Lelito, he is further along than Charles Brown or Terron Armstead were at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Listen to Strief’s comments from his July 28 press conference on the promise of the 2014 season (Click on the ellipsis if the video does not automatically populate:
Our running backs will be able to carry the ball successfully in the New Orleans Saints running game.
Pierre Thomas remains an adroit and creative back. His skill set includes catching the ball as well as straight up runs. He is known as an instinctual runner who can find a seam and does not go down easily. He brings an option to the offense not often seen in both running, catching and finding an open area on the field.
Mark Ingram is a controversial figure. But his health and resiliency showed last year and his average per yard (4.9) is the highest among Saints backs. He would be considered more of a pure runner. Here are some films clips of his runs against Dallas … This is no draft bust but a good runner.
Khiry Robinson has slimmed down and has acclimated better to the playbook getting a better vision of what the team wants and doing it more instinctively than ever. He would be considered our power back–capable of obtaining much needed short yardage.
I anticipate we will be able to get needed yardage, tire out defenses, take control of the game’s pace and be able to keep opponents off the field in the last four minutes to protect a lead this year. This will be a great year for the New Orleans Saints running game.