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New Orleans Saints Insider: Grading the Quarterbacks and Running Backs

The Saints didn’t get an opportunity to defend their Super Bowl Championship title, as they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs.  But all is not lost in New Orleans. 

They have a good base on the offense and if they can add just a couple more players at key positions, they can have success on this side of the ball next season.

But for now, it’s time to take a look at the Saints offense and see how each member did to close out the season, see if they will be back next year and see where the weak spots are.

 

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees, Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield (Practice Squad). 

After having a great season in 2009, Brees regressed a little bit over his 2010 performance, but still led this team on offense.  He accumulated a total of 4620 yards on 448 completions (out of 658 attempts) and a completion percentage of 68.  He posted 33 touchdowns with 22 interceptions and an overall passer rating of 90.9.

Brees is the most important person on this team, hands down.  He’s the guy that drives the offense, keeps the team together and is their inspirational leader (the face of the franchise). 

The team will definitely keep him around and he will continue to have a great career with the Saints.

Backing up Brees in 2010 was second stringer Chase Daniels.  Daniels didn’t really see a lot of action and will see some competition in training camp this summer.  Can he outlast it and stick with the team?  He may get some competition from Sean Canfield, who spent this season on the practice squad.

Overall Grade: A-

 

Running Backs

The Saints had their struggles in the running game last year, thanks to injuries to their two primary running backs, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.  The Saints had depth (and had to go out and get depth) but, for the most part, it just wasn’t enough to help dig the Saints out of some of the holes that they found themselves in this year (see their game against the Seahawks in the playoffs).

The Saints state that they want to bring back Bush and Thomas next season and will if the money is right.  If they can stay healthy, the Saints should have a pretty nice rushing attack next season.  They have to in order to have success on offense next season.

Pierre Thomas: Thomas had a total of 83 rushes for 269 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per rush along with two touchdowns.  Thomas missed a lot of time with an injury in 2010 and even landed in head coach Sean Payton’s dog house for a short amount of time.  

Team management has stated that they would like to have him back, but that remains to be seen.

If they end up getting a younger and more effective back during the offseason, the two sides could part ways.  

Grade: C-

Chris Ivory: Ivory, like Thomas, ended his season on injured reserve and missed the playoffs after being hurt in the Saints' last game of the regular season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He ended up having a total of 137 rushing attempts for 716 yards, with an average of 5.2 yards a rush with five touchdowns.

Unless they bring in some additional talent during the offseason, the Saints will probably keep Ivory around and have him on the roster next season.

Grade: C+

Julius Jones: Jones was brought in to help alleviate some of the problems caused by having Thomas out of the lineup and would have a minor impact this season.  All together, he had 48 rushing attempts for 193 yards, with an average of four yards per attempt and no touchdowns.  

The Saints may keep Jones just for some training camp depth, but it’s more likely that he will be let go in the offseason.

Grade: C-

Ladell Betts: The Saints grabbed Betts prior to the start of the season after Lynell Hamilton was lost for the year with an injury.  Betts, however, didn’t last that long and ended the season on injured reserve himself.  Betts rushed a total of 45 times for 150 yards, with an average of 3.3 yards per carry and two touchdowns.

If Betts is healthy, they will bring him back this offseason to have him compete with guys like Hamilton and Ivory for a backup spot.  Betts is getting up there in age though, and the Saints may decide to go with youth next year.

Grade: Incomplete

Reggie Bush: Bush ended up being injured for a majority of the season and came back just at the end of it.  All told, he had 36 rushing attempts for 150 yards, a 4.2 yards per carry average and no touchdowns.  With Bush out of the lineup, not only did their running game struggle, but their offense did overall, as he is an important part of what they want to do on that side of the ball.  

He’s due to make a lot of money next season, so expect the Saints to try to get his salary lowered or else, if they can’t do that, possibly trade him.

Grade: C

Heath Evans: Evans wasn’t utilized that much during the season as a rusher and only had two attempts for two yards.  However, he was a good blocker and should return to attempt to keep a roster spot as their fullback.  

Grade: C+

The Saints have the following players listed on their roster at the running back position: Joique Bell (active roster), DeShawn Wynn (active roster), Chris Taylor (practice squad), Lynell Hamilton (injured reserve) and P.J. Hill (injured reserve).

The Saints have the following players listed at the fullback position on their roster: Jed Collins (practice squad) and Marcus Mailei (injured reserve).

In order for the Saints to have success on offense next season and take the heat off of Brees and the passing game, they need to have success rushing the football.  They may want to spend some time looking through the running backs that are coming out in the draft and see what they can find there.  

Since they have had some issues with the health of their running backs this season, they may want to look at the roster, cut some dead weight and bring in some new talent.  That would be the best way to go to improve their running game and get that part of their offense set up for next season.  

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