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This post is like Christmas: Don't open it 'till Tuesday

  • The Kaesviharn-Harper safety combination should remain intact after Josh Bullocks returns from injury. Kaesviharn doesn't have the physical skills of Bullocks, but he's a much savvier player.
  • Advancing that last point, the turning point of the Arizona game -- to me -- was the Harper interception late in the first half. Remember that it immediately followed Breaston's punt return to the Saints' 46. It looked like the Saints were in the Tampa-2, where Simoneau was responsible for the deep middle. Simoneau made a nice play on a ball that may have been underthrown, but it was Kaesviharn who knocked the ball to Harper. Obviously, this was unintentional, but I'm not sure Bullocks would have been in the same position as Kaesviharn. When guys are around the ball, good things happen.
  • To give more props to the defense, Scott Fujita may have had his best game as a Saint. All told, he logged 10 tackles, two sacks and a fumble forced. He is often overlooked but may be the best player on that defense.
  • Mike McKenzie's play on the fourth-quarter, third-and-three reverse from the Saints' seven was also huge. McKenzie stopped Breaston for a loss of two, forcing Arizona to settle for the field goal, making the game 31-24.
  • I reading the SaintsReport boards yesterday -- shark-infested waters, as always -- and I was shocked at how many people think Reggie Bush can't create long gains. Umm, have you forgotten this play? Reggie didn't just outrun Brian Urlacher -- no small feat -- he outran everybody on both teams. 88-yard touchdowns count as long gains in my book.
  • Finally, the Saints' offensive line did a great job of blocking and Aaron Stecker did a great job of hitting the hole and getting upfield. I posted the following table with the quoted comment on this thread but it bears revisiting:

Saints offensive line vs. league average by Adj. Line Yds.
Left End Left Tackle Mid/Guard Right Tackle Right End
2007 Saints 3.20 (29) 3.24 (30) 4.68 (4) 3.82 (24) 3.10 (29)
2006 Saints 4.38 (12) 4.12 (21) 4.55 (10) 3.91 (28) 4.42 (11)
2007 NFL Avg. 4.18 4.36 4.11 4.25 4.12
2006 NFL Avg. 4.12 4.37 4.32 4.21 4.05

The Football Outsiders break each team's offensive line down by Adjusted Line Yardage in each direction a run can go (left end, left tackle, middle/guard, right tackle and right end). Essentially, Adjusted Line Yardage is their attempt at separating line performance from running back performance (admittedly, an impossible task). In theory, Adjusted Line Yardage will tell you how a league average runner will perform running behind that lineman. So what do we see?

I'm not as interested in the numbers as much as the rankings. And they're not promising. Up the middle, the Saints have been an elite running team over the past two seasons. On the peripheries, the Saints can't run very successfully.

The reason I bring that back is because the original title for the post was "Why Aaron Stecker will be a better running back than Reggie Bush (and why it's not all Reggie's fault)." At the time I assumed, as many of us did, that with Stecker the Saints would be more of an up-the-middle running team, whether by design -- the coaches call more of those plays -- or execution -- the runner chooses to go up the middle, as opposed to bouncing the ball outside.

Sure enough, what we've seen in the past two games is the Saints playing to Stecker's strengths -- gaining chunks of yardage up the middle -- as opposed to Reggie's strengths -- isolating him in space against an inferior athlete.

I'd like to see Reggie bulk up in the offseason to become more of an up-the-middle runner. It's a different offensive system, but Reggie reminds me so much of Clinton Portis when he first entered the league. At some point, Portis sacrificed some of his speed and explosiveness to become a heavier back and the result has been an impressive career. I'd like to see Reggie do the same. Reggie will only be 23 next season -- it's not like he's too old for his frame to fill out, particularly his lower body.

And, like the bulked-up Portis, Reggie would still have the speed and athleticism to burn inferior athletes in the open field.