This is my evaluation on the 2009 New Orleans Saints' backfield. The Saints have a backfield that can do different things, but this article is going to be on the two most talked about running backs for the Saints: Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.
Now, if I had to use one word to describe each of these running backs roles for the Saints offense, Pierre Thomas would be the force and Reggie Bush the explosives.
Thomas and Bush both bring different types of running game but both are very effective in the Saints' offense and are very solid when assigned a assignment by head coach Sean Payton.
Here is how both of these backs complement each other:
Pierre "The Force" Thomas
Pierre Thomas joined the New Orleans Saints as a un-drafted rookie in 2007. Thomas opened eyes in his first start in the NFL against the Chicago Bears. He rushed for 105 yards with a 5.5 average with 12 receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Since that game, Thomas has seen his role increased as a running back with the New Orleans Saints. He's had 129 rushing attempts for 625 yards with a 4.8 average and nine rushing touchdowns. Pierre Thomas also recorded 31 catches for 284 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
Thomas has also been used in the kick return game—you might remember the return against division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, to give the Saints great field positioning to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Although Thomas did not take any returns to the house, he was a solid contributor in setting the Saints up with great field positioning. Thomas had 31 kick returns for 793 yards with a 25.6 average and his longest of the season was an 88-yarder.
Thomas is a physical back who would much rather run north and south than to the outside. I feel like Thomas is the perfect goal line back for the Saints for two reasons: he can run in the inside and he can catch, which gives the Saints two options along the goal line. Pierre also does not turn the ball over, only fumbling once in his career with the Saints. Thomas was a great player for the Saints in 2008 and put up 1,702 all-purpose yards with 12 touchdowns and I expect his touches to increase in 2009.
Reggie "The Explosives" Bush
Reggie Bush joined the Saints in 2006 when he was drafted with the second overall pick of the 2006 NFL draft. Reggie Bush has the speed to take it to the house with every single touch, but he has been inconsistent when it comes to running between the tackles and staying healthy.
Bush exploded onto the scene in many ways in his rookie season with the Saints, mostly in the receiving game where he recorded 88 receptions for 742 yards with a 8.4 average and two touchdowns. Bush also ran the ball 155 times for 565 yards with a 3.6 average and six rushing touchdowns. Bush was also used on special teams getting 28 returns for 216 yards with a 7.7 average and one touchdown.
Reggie Bush finished the 2008 season with 106 rushing attempts for 404 yards with a 3.8 average with two rushing touchdowns. Bush also had 52 receptions for 440 yards with 8.5 average and four receiving touchdowns. Bush returned 20 punts for 270 yards with a 13.5 average and three touchdowns. In 2008, he had 1,114 total yards and nine total touchdowns.
Reggie should be the back used more for the receiving game for the Saints and used for toss plays and draws. We saw at the end of the 2008 season where Payton started to run a lot more draw plays with Bush, and an example would be in week 14 against Atlanta where the Saints ran a draw play out of the shotgun and Reggie got a 43-yard run out of it. Bush complements Pierre Thomas with his speed and ability to make defenders miss. Expect Bush's role to be the same as it was in 2006: coming in on passing downs and creating problems for defenses' linebackers.
The Saints have a talented backfield that could put up great numbers if given the opportunity, but the Saints will remain pass first and both of these backs can catch the ball and make explosive plays for the Saints in 2009.