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Saints Roster Countdown 2014: #23 Pierre Thomas and #73 Jahri Evans

The Saints are back in New Orleans for the 2014 season, and are hosting the Titans in their second preseason game tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're counting down the days until the Saints kick off the regular season in Atlanta, by taking a brief look at the guys who currently stand on the roster. Today we check out #23 (RB) Pierre Thomas and #73 (G) Jahri Evans

Streeter Lecka

As we count down from 50 days until the New Orleans Saints begin their regular season in Atlanta, on September 7th, we're getting to know a little bit about those players who have signed on to bring home another Lombardi trophy.

Today, we take a brief look at two key veterans on the Saints offense:  running back Pierre Thomas and guard Jahri Evans!

So, with no more ado:

23 DAYS UNTIL ATLANTA!!!

#23 RB Pierre Thomas (8th Year)

Charles Pierre Thomas, Jr. has always been a tough, self-motivated football player.  Some of his self-taught practice for high school football included running up a steep hill with a backpack full of books on and pushing cars around.  And that practice has transferred to an incredible toughness, and a self-proclaimed enjoyment of running over defenders and breaking their will on his way to the end zone.

Despite going undrafted, Thomas has been an exceptional pick up for the Saints.  New Orleans signed him as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois in 2007, and he immediately earned a roster spot as a rookie, excelling on special teams.  During his second and third years, he led the team in total rushing yards; and he was Sean Payton's go-to guy on 4th-and-1 in overtime of the team's NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings.

During his years in New Orleans Pierre Thomas has evolved into one of the most productive running backs in team history, proving himself repeatedly as an equally versatile threat as a runner, receiver and blocker.  In 94 games with 35 starts, he has carried 773 times for 3,523 yards (4.6 avg.) with 26 touchdowns, and has added 282 receptions for 2,230 yards (7.9 avg.) with 11 touchdowns.  He’s ranked fourth in club records in rushing yards and yards per carry, fifth in rushing touchdowns, eighth in total touchdowns (38) and ninth in receptions.  Just last season, Thomas led the Saints in rushing, carrying 147 times for 549 yards with two touchdowns, and finished first among NFL running backs in receiving, catching 77 passes for 513 yards (6.7 avg.) with three touchdowns.  He also became only the fourth Saints running back to surpass 3,500 career yards rushing last year; while he and Darren Sproles became the first Saints running back duo in franchise history to each surpass 70 receptions.

Even though preseason reports place Thomas behind Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson on the depth chart, his skills with the screen pass are currently unmatched on the team.  That said, Pierre's dead money drops considerably after 2014, meaning the veteran running back -- who turns 30 this season -- may be facing his final season in Black and Gold as soon as Sean Payton can find quarterback Drew Brees a suitable replacement.  Many members of the Who Dat Nation will be very sad to see the ever-smiling fan favorite leave, when that day eventually arrives.

Contract:
3 yr(s) / $6,900,000. Average: $2,300,000 per year through 2016.

#73 G Jahri Evans (9th Year)

Since 2009, Jahri Evans has enjoyed five of the most decorated seasons for a Saints offensive lineman in team history.  The New Orleans Saints drafted Evans out of Bloomsburg in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and he has become a key figure in one of the league's top offenses.  A powerful run blocker and polished pass protector, he has been voted to the Pro Bowl -- and as an Associated Press All-Pro -- each of the last five seasons, and is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s top linemen.

Since being drafted in 2006, last season was the first time Evans has ever missed a game, or missed a start; and he missed two games with injuries in 2013.  Evans hurt his back, hamstring and groin all in the first half of the season, sidelining him for several practices and causing him to sit out in the Week 3 game at home against the Arizona Cardinals.  Missing this first game of his career ended what was at the time tied for the NFL’s third-longest ironman streak, at 114 consecutive regular-season starts (not counting eight in the playoffs).  Despite sitting out again in Week 12, at Atlanta, Evans still earned his fifth straight trip to the Pro-Bowl, though he missed out on what would have been his fifth straight All-Pro first team selection (he made the second team).

And now, he has missed the past week and a half of training camp, and looks to miss at least the first two games of the preseason.  The outstanding veteran needs to ensure he is healthy for the regular season, more than he needs reps in the preseason.  But it could be a long season for him, and for Brees, if Evans isn't fully healthy when it's time for the backups to take their place on the bench.

Contract:
7 yr(s) / $56,700,000. Average: $8,100,00 per year through 2016.