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Saints 2011 Free Agents: Pierre Thomas, Part Deux

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We've already started discussing Pierre Thomas' value as a free agent and were in the middle of trying to figure out whether or not he makes the Saints offense more productive by examining the teams stats when Pierre is playing. Let's now take a look at the offenses performance when Pierre is out with injury. Remember that these stats are over 10 games while the other stats were just for six.

Games Thomas did not play

  • Carolina: 383 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 114 rushing yards and 27 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 37%.
  • @Arizona: 358 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 83 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 30%.
  • @Tampa: 475 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 210 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 51%.
  • Browns: 394 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 56 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 27%.
  • Steelers: 318 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 31 rushing yards and 22 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 17%.
  • @Carolina: 408 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 149 rushing yards and -5 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 35%.
  • Seattle: 494 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 103 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 31%.
  • @Dallas: 414 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 84 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 28%.
  • @Cincinnati: 436 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 146 rushing yards and 6 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 35%.
  • Tampa: 305 Net Offensive yards, all running backs contributed 109 rushing yards and 60 receiving yards. The running backs' share of the offense was 55%.

In games where Pierre did not play, running backs accounted for an average 35% of the offense (an 11 point increase), they ran for 1,085 yards and received for 300 for a total of 1385 offensive yards.

  • In these 10 games, the Saints put up 3985 offensive yards.
  • In those same 10 games, the Saints had a 3rd down conversion rate of 49.63% (2 point increase).
  • A red zone conversion rate of 45.24% (10 point decrease).
  • Drew got sacked 15 times (5 sacks more) and had a completion percentage of 66.67% (drop of 4 points).

Here are the top five games in total offensive yards:

Yards Game Pierre appearance
494 Seattle No
475 @Tampa No
436 @Cin No
414 @Dallas No
408 @Carolina No

The sixth game would be the first Falcons game with 398 offensive yards, which does feature Pierre. However, that game is the outlier. In fact, of the six games Pierre played, three of them are in the bottom five in terms of offensive output.

So does Pierre's presence mean more offense? No. In fact the Saints have more offense when Pierre is out and the Saints have backups in. The problem with that is Brees passes a lot more. Before Pierre went down, Brees was barely passing. Then, following Pierre's ankle injury, either Payton upped the number of pass plays or Drew didn't feel as comfortable running the ball. Neither is determinable but one thing seems to be clear: when Pierre is in the game the Saints are more willing to run the ball.

One thing I would like to point out before moving on: In six games, Pierre put up 201 receiving yards. In the other 10 games, all running backs put up just 300 receiving yards. Even though all the other running backs had an extra four games, they only put up an extra 99 receiving yards and that includes Julius Jones, Heath Evans, Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, and Ladell Betts. It took five backs with four extra games to put up just 99 more receiving yards than Pierre. So while offensive production as a whole does not increase when Pierre is in, there is a difference in the passing game as far as the check down receiver is concerned.

Summary - The stats don't tell the whole tale. When Pierre is in, the offense as a whole decreases in production. However, the passing game becomes more efficient in that the check down play to Thomas gets more yardage than other backs.

Should the Saints re-sign Pierre Thomas?

Pierre Thomas is an injury prone back who cannot be depended on to complete an entire season. Yet he is a great asset in the passing game and is an average to above-average running back. If the Saints bring back Pierre Thomas, I would be in favor of the move. However, the Saints cannot depend on Pierre to be the back for another season. The Saints need to try and find - either through free agency or the draft - another, more durable running back.. This back should have the ability to run the ball but also fit well in the passing game. If the Saints want to go into the 2011 season riding solely on Pierre Thomas, things will not end well.

Do I think Pierre should come back? Yes. But if he asks for too high a contract it may be time to bid him adieu. With other free agents to worry about as well as the draft, the Saints can't spend too much money when considering other players.

Now it's your turn to sound off! Do you think my stats are bull or do you agree 100%? Do you want Pierre back or would you rather the Saints take a chance on another running back?