If you've been paying close attention to the NFL the past few years now, you may have noticed many teams across the league shift from the use of one single running back to a rotation of multiple runners in their backfield. It's certainly nothing new and makes sense when you consider the physical demands of the position within a single game and the wear and tear placed on an NFL running back's body throughout his short career.
Jon Bois at SBNation.com crunched a bunch of numbers and put together a pretty interesting article about the declining use of the single back system in the NFL. In short, teams appear to be spreading the rushing load just a bit more the past four seasons then ever before. Running backs are also getting drafted, on average, significantly later the past few years.
Anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to the Saints the past few years knows that they definitely fit into that category of a multi-back team. And not just two running backs. Last year the Saints were one of only two teams in the league to use five different running backs, though obviously not by choice but because of rampant injury.
As we look forward to the 2011 season, the Saints are as well-stocked as ever in the running back department. Pierre Thomas has been re-signed, guarantees have been made to bring Reggie Bush back on the cheap, Chris Ivory will be entering a promising sophomore season and Mark Ingram has just been added to the fold. That leaves the Saints with four quality ball carrier options and frankly, it makes me a little tingly in the pants.
Assuming the Saints retain all four backs on the roster to start the season, this leaves us with one intriguing and all-important question: do the Saints plan on taking the multi-back system to new levels by knocking out defenses with a one-two-three-four running back punch or are they planning to keep them purely for depth when the inevitable injury bug strikes?