Remember Pierre Thomas?
It's okay if you don't. In fact, it wouldn't even be that surprising.
For those of you who need a reminder, allow me to refresh your memory. He's the guy who's averaging 4.6 yards a carry and 8.2 yards a catch with the Saints since joining the organization in 2007. And he's done it with a crowded backfield and receiving corps all clamoring for touches in Sean Payton's player-friendly offense.
This offseason we've been bombarded with column after column from sportswriters scratching their heads about Thomas' teammate Mark Ingram.
Is he a bust? Does he just need more touches? When will he finally break out?
But lost in all of the Ingram drama is the guy who has been so pivotal to the Saints' recent success. Pierre Thomas has been with New Orleans for seven years now and in that time has established himself as one of the most productive running backs in the game.
Thomas has exceptional vision and is one of the best in the league at following blockers, especially after catching a screen pass. When Payton gave him the most touches of his career in 2009, New Orleans won the Super Bowl.
Seem like a coincidence? It's not.
We've been hearing it all summer. If the Saints want to go back to their winning ways they have to run the ball more. And I agree. But my advice goes even further. To truly be successful, the Saints have to start running the ball more with Pierre Thomas.
Mark Ingram has seen the bulk of the carries in Payton's offense since he was drafted in the first round of 2011. This is despite the fact that Thomas is averaging almost a full yard per carry more the past two seasons and is much more versatile than the downfield-running Ingram. Thomas had the longest run (48 yards) of all the returning backs last season and averaged almost 5 yards per rush to Ingram's 3.9.
When it comes to short-yardage situations the statistics may surprise you. Over the past two years Ingram was given 27 attempts to Thomas' measly 5, but his 1 touchdown and 4.0 yards per carry still trumps Ingram's 3.15 yards a run and 0 touchdowns.
Pierre Thomas is also a legitimate threat in the passing game, something that should warrant him more time on the field this season. Thomas has caught an astounding 89 passes the past two years and averaged more receiving yards per catch in 2012 than Darren Sproles. I know, I was shocked too.
Both Ingram and Thomas are valuable assets to the Saints offense and I want them to stick around for a long time.But the numbers don't lie. Even without factoring in his receptions it's hard to argue against Thomas not getting the first team reps with New Orleans this year.
The departure of Chris Ivory has helped clear up a cluttered backfield but the question still remains. Who will get the most carries in 2013?
If that answer is Pierre Thomas, good things are in store for the New Orleans Saints.
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