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Baby Got Backs

I was listening to my buddy Kenny Wilkerson on Sports Talk...Unplugged while he was going back and forth with a caller last night. The topic was the Saints running game; Kenny and the caller agreed that Mike Bell has proved to be the better straight-ahead, every down running back over Reggie Bush. But when the regular season starts, Kenny asked, who will be getting the bulk of the carries?

The answer, we could probably all agree, is Reggie. And that's fine with me. Bush has finally admitted something everyone and their grandmother already knew: His previous running style wasn't working. Now, Reggie says, that's all in the past...

"It's like an alcoholic when they go into an (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting or something," he said. "That's the first step, just recognizing it and getting better from there. ... I'm really just working on being explosive and, yes, hitting the holes. I think over these last two years I haven't done that."    

So Reggie is certainly worthy of yet another shot at being the teams number one between the tackles running back and moving on to step two of Alcoholics Anonymous: Running over linebackers. We've talked this pre-season about how much better the offensive line seems to be run blocking; certainly that bodes well for Reggie. 

But what if he's not any better? In seasons past, we've seen Sean Payton stubbornly continue to incorporate Reggie into the running game even after it was evident that he just couldn't get it done and more evident that there was someone else on the roster who could. Stop me if you've heard this one before. As a fan, it was frustrating last season to watch the Saints run the ball more efficiently during games without Bush (4.84 yards per carry) than in games with him (3.61 yards per carry). You may have noticed Reggie also wasn't dressed these last two weeks of pre-season when the Saints have looked so great running the ball. One could argue that they are two completely different offenses. But I'm not trying to be a hater (don't tase me, Tay!) and I don't blame Reggie; I think it's a play calling issue, a stubborness issue. So when everyone's healthy this season, will Payton be willing to go with the hot running back...even if his name isn't Bush?

We've all been so excited about the prospect of the Saints having yet another great ball carrier in Mike Bell and seeing the team use a running back-by-committee approach, but only when utilized properly is that effective. For this, we must trust Payton, his playcalling and whether or not he remembers what he was just beginning to learn at the end of last season. More than anyone else on that field, his off-season improvement is most crucial.