The Saints finished the 2017 season 11-5 atop the NFC South. Along the way, paired with an outstanding and consistently improving defense, the offense found its way to another Top-3 spot in the NFL ranking second in total yardage. Even though 6,259 yards was the lowest output since 2010, the Saints managed to muster a new and very impressive element into the offense that’s been missing for quite some time. Balance.
As you can see below, 2017 brought upon the best balance (least % differential) of run and pass yardage in the Payton/Brees era. It was the best balance since 2009’s Super Bowl winning campaign.
The electrifying capabilities of the run game, in particular boosted the Saints offense in 2017. Since Sean Payton took over in 2006, New Orleans has only amassed over 2,000 rushing yards three times.
This year, among teams that compiled over 6,000 yards (5), the Saints achieved the best balance both from their run and pass games, led by their top-three offensive weapons. Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara accounted for 4,339 yards from scrimmage. The trio came second only to Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the percentage contribution to their team’s offensive yardage total.
You can also see here that with the yardage accumulated by the top offenses’ top-three options were heavily weighted to receiving yards. However, for the Saints who had two running-backs atop their scrimmage yards charts, the balance is blatantly present yielding less than a 15% difference in run-to-recieving yardage. In the scope of the NFL gameplan, this is pretty much 50/50.
There’s no denying how important Kamra, Ingram, and Thomas are to the Saints, but their offense as a whole maintained some impressive diversity.
When you look at the passing and rushing stats up against the team’s total yardage, the Saints had the least percentage differential of the same Top-5 offenses.
Considering that the most successful years of the franchise came when the team rushed for over 2,000 yards and had the least percentage differential run-to-pass, it’s apparent why it’s so important to Sean Payton. He’s mentioned on many occasions over his 13-year tenure (so far) that he desires a strong run game to partner with the dynamic passing attack led by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
While all signs point to maintain this trend in 2018, one thing potentially stands in the way. The four-game suspension of Mark Ingram. Ingram alone accounted for 24.6% of the team’s total scrimmage yardage and an even share of the top-three group. Terrence West, Boston Scott, Jonathan Williams, and Trey Edmunds will all have a shot in training camp to prove they deserve snap-shares with Alvin Kamara throughout the first quarter of the season. But making up for about 385 scrimmage yards in that time isn’t easy, so it may come down to the additions of Cameron Meredith and Tre’Quan Smith in the passing game instead. As many fantasy owners will tell you, it’s hard to predict where the Saints offense will go.
What’s for certain though is that Saints are prepared to put together another outstanding offensive year. And while one of the team’s favorite weapons is on the shelf for a couple weeks, there are plenty of options to help maintain the firepower.