Baby Got Back: A Struggling Defense's Best Friend

Andrew BrownContributor IFebruary 9, 2009

Now, I'm no fool.  I know many of citizens of WhoDat Nation are so infatuated with Reggie and Pierre that they cannot bear imagine the Saints' roster with a different backfield.  I know I might catch some heat for this.  But somebody needs to say it.




We've all talked about what has to happen to our Dreaded Defense...

More depth at the line.

Another shut-down cornerback to line up with Porter.
A more capable free safety.

I've heard it all. But what I want to introduce to you is what I like to call "Law of Big Backs." No, I'm not talking about my love for thick rear-end. I'm talking about my belief, and the statistical law, that a defense's best friend is a big, power running back that grinds down the field and speeds up the clock.


Now, I'm no fool.  I know many of citizens of WhoDat Nation are so infatuated with Reggie and Pierre that they cannot bear imagine the Saints' roster with a different backfield.  I know I might catch some heat for this.  But somebody needs to say it.

I'm not going to pretend that I am the first to realize this truth. However, all-too-often fans tend to follow football too black & white (you know who you are).  We all know these people—it doesn’t matter the topic, they quote TD and YPC stats all day long.  They measure a defense's strength and weakness based upon the number of points they allow and turnovers they produce.  They see the game of football as only stats and highlights—no variables.  Here I am to say that every stat is tied to another variable.

I've heard many cases from people within WhoDat Nation that suggest that the Saints should be content with our current running backs (Thomas and Bush specifically).  They will tell you about Reggie's touchdowns when he's healthy and they talk about Pierre's YPC average.  They don't want to "waste" our drafts or salary cap on any more offense.  I understand your stance, but in my utmost humble opinion, you aren't seeing the whole picture.

What I don't hear people talking about is what happens on 3rd-and-short when opposing defenses know what's coming.  Let’s be honest, I think anybody that has ever watched a Saints’ game within the last two seasons know that first-downs are a crapshoot when opposing defenses know that Pierre and Reggie are getting the ball.

Too many variables are being ignored.  Sure, we all love to see big numbers when we look at the YPC and TD categories, but let's look at the bigger picture.  Let's look at the numbers that really killed us.



The Breakdown


The New Orleans Saints ran the ball 43 times this season when we were 3rd-and-1. Guess how many times our current running backs were able to pick up the one yard (or less)?  A mediocre 26 times.  You can do the math and compare that stat to other running back tandems in the league—but a warning; you won't like what you see.

Furthermore, did you know Pierre Thomas averaged 1.1 yards in 3rd-and-1 scenarios this season?  You might think that's good, at first glance, but when you convert that 1.1 YPC into a percentage, Pierre is only picking up the first-down around 53 percent of the time.  Whereas, other true power running backs around the league are gaining the first-down around 70-77 percent of the time.  Call me crazy, but on third down and a yard or two to go, I'm not content with Pierre or Reggie.

I’m not done yet; I have another stat for you.  Did you know that our average time of possession every time our offense stepped onto the field was the third shortest in the league? We either scored or gave the ball back to the other team without a hesitation.  Everything we did on offense—good or bad—was quick.  What does that do to our defense, besides give them very little time for potty breaks during a game?  It simply wears them out.  Suddenly getting to the quarterback and covering the wide receiver are such simple requests.

Do we need a new free safety? Yes.  Do we need another shutdown cornerback? Yes.  Do we need some more depth around the line? Another yes.

But what many of us aren't remembering is "the Law of Big Backs," which says that the easiest way to help a struggling defense is to pick up the first-downs on 3rd-and-short situations. For us to be able to do that, we have to bring in someone who can consistently pick up that one or two yards.

I know right now criticizing the offense is not a popular thing to do around those that follow the Saints organization.  We’ve watched too many games within the last two years were it seemed as though the offense was keeping us in the game and the defense was doing everything they could to keep us out of it.  And yes, I want to see us bring in a lot of talent and depth into our defense this offseason and I hope to see a lot of draft picks used towards the defensive side of the ball.

But whether it comes through a trade, a free agency signing or a draft pick - let's be open to the thought of using a little bit of our cap space or maybe even one of draft picks to bring in a big running back.


Once again, I repeat:  I’m not suggesting that the Saints break the bank for one of the top running backs on the market.  I am simply voicing what so many other Saints fans are ignoring—Reggie and Pierre aren’t cutting it.


I know it’s easy to just classify a position as someone who contributes either the defense or offense, but out of every position on the field, there is no other position in the game that does more for both sides of the ball than a ground pounding running back.  I think you might be surprised by what some of our current guys on defense are capable of doing when given a little breathing time between possessions.

"The Law of Big Backs" helps offense and defense. Think about it ya'll.



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