The New Orleans Saints didn’t quite look the same last year. Sure they had the same core offensively that they have had since their championship back in 2009, but the offense ran at a much different pace. Probably the reason why, in a very uncharacteristic manor, the Saints lost their last 5 home games and ended the season a horrible 7-9, failing to make the playoffs over the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers. Huge missed opportunity to make the most of a up and down season.
When you lose a player as dangerous as RB Darren Sprolles things are bound to change. Sprolles brought an incredible dynamic to their offense and is considered one of the most dangerous playmakers in the game. Certainly no other running back makes the change-of-pace running back position look more impressive than Sprolles. The Saints have been running that explosive system for a while now with RB Reggie Bush even before Sprolles went to the Saints. This year the Saints figured that RB Travaris Cadet and RB Khiry Robinson would take over the position while RB Pierre Thomas and RB Mark Ingram carry the load, but it didn’t quite work out as the explosiveness and mismatch opportunities that Sprolles created where not the same.
Sure the Saints still had QB Drew Brees lead the league in passing yards, the most lethal player in TE Jimmy Graham, they had one of the most impressive rookie WR in Brandin Cooks who unfortunately got hurt early in the year, and they have RB Mark Ingram who emerged as one of the best running backs in the league, leading the league in rushing yards since he came back from injury, so they should have still been able to exploit defenses like usual even with the absense of Sprolles. But that wasn’t the case. The Saints controlled the ball really well with the running game, as they had done in years passed, but the offense became to focal on Graham and Brees which led to really predictable offensive play calling. The Mew Orleans Saints were 2nd in the league in turnover margin with -13, trailing only the Oakland Raiders, that is how you know things have gotten bad. They led the league in offensive yards, but when you take into account all the times they were down in games by their own ill advised mistakes, you start to wonder how good you really are.
What changed was clear. They didn’t have many options to go to besides Jimmy Graham. Things where working out fine but there was no “Change-of-pace”. In comes RB C.J. Spiller. All 5’11” 200 lbs of him. Not quite the same as Sprolles but damn near close. Spiller has enjoyed some great seasons with the Buffalo Bills but very little respect has been earned. Before his injury last year, Spiller had played all but 3 games in four years and averaged 5.2 – 6.0 – 4.6 yards per game in 3 straight seasons. He is a dangerous player in the passing game as well, averaging 10.6 yards per catch on his best year, but the Buffalo Bills could never utilize him the right way.
With the addition of Spiller and Brandin Cooks to the Saints offense, the emergence of Mark Ingram as a pro bowl running back, new starting tight end Josh Hill, the chemistry and consistency of veteran Marques Colston, and the pro bowl play of Drew Brees, coach Sean Payton should be able to get the Saints offense right back on track to doing things like they did in their most successful years.