When you think about the New Orleans Saints offense you think of their explosive passing attack. With Drew Brees, one of the best in the game, and the surrounding weapons of Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore and Marques Colston, most don't give their running game much thought. To be honest, all you have to look at is their pass to run ratio during the season to realize that Sean Payton doesn't give it much thought either. But there is a litte diamond in the rough emerging in the Big Easy.
This is nothing new, mind you. The Saints' current regime has been excellent at uncovering undrafted back gems. You look at what Chris Ivory has been able to do, Joique Bell with the Lions, or Pierre Thomas who has remained on the team. Those are all undrafted players brought up by the Saints. Still, if you asked any avid NFL fan to discuss the Saints' back committee system they'd quickly and rightfully name Thomas along with Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram as the main recipients of carries in a platoon system. As the Saints ponder offseason moves and an offensive direction for 2014, though, featuring this year's high potential rookie Khiry Robinson more has to be in the plans.
Pierre Thomas was unable to play in the playoffs due to an injury, and Robinson saw an increased opportunity because of it. It's worth first pointing out that the West Texas A&M product made the 53 man roster to begin with by leading the NFL in rushing for the preseason with 228 yards at 4.7 yards per carry. In fact, he was so impressive on most of his carries in that span that the only thing holding him back from being ahead of the bigger names in the pecking order was ball security issues. During the course of the season the Saints' brass hesitated to fully trust Robinson because of this. He finished his first season with 224 yards rushing at 4.1 yards per carry, but no fumbles. Then the playoffs came.
In two games against the Eagles and Seahawks in bitter cold conditions, the Saints were forced to run the ball and do so without Pierre Thomas. Robinson, spelling the main back Mark Ingram, rewarded the Saints with 8 carries for 45 yards against the Eagles and 13 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. Still no fumbles. That's 102 yards on 21 carries in the playoffs (4.9 yards per carry) and those yards weren't gained by one or two big chunk plays. He was consistently getting tough yards and falling forward. During the broadcast of the second game it was said that Bill Parcells himself likened Robinson to Hall of Famer Curtis Martin and urged Sean Payton to feature him more. High praise to say the least. And for Robinson to play that well against two very good run defenses on the road in the playoffs says a lot about his potential.
So while as long as Drew Brees is around the Saints' offense will always remain a pass heavy unit, don't sleep on this newest wrinkle. Robinson could be turning into one of the budding stars in the league.