- Apr 21, 2010
- Reaction score
Jimmy Graham vs. Rob Gronkowski; why the Saints are running - NFL.com
Since Week 8, the Saints have led the NFL in rushing yards per game (185.5) behind the re-emergence of Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram as dependable workhorse ball-carriers. Hightower in particular has taken his game up a notch since being promoted to a bigger role in the backfield. Over the past two games, he has amassed 189 rushing yards on 49 attempts with a score. Most importantly, he has given the Saints' running game the kind of "thump" that had been missing since the beginning of the season.
Poring over Next Gen Stats, I noticed that the Saints have changed their personnel and formation packages with Hightower on the field. After averaging only 1.7 and 0.3 rushing attempts, respectively, from single-back and I-formations during the team's first seven games this season, he has posted averages of 17.0 and 4.5 rushing attempts from those formations during Weeks 8-9. Hightower's success out of the single-back is particularly impressive, due to his 4.3 yards-per-carry mark from that formation.
From I-formations, Ingram has averaged 4.7 yards per carry on an average of 3.0 rushing attempts over the past two games. Interestingly, Ingram hasn't logged a single carry from a shotgun formation after averaging 4.6 shotgun runs during the first seven games of 2016. Although he successfully pounded the ball between the tackles to the tune of 4.7 yards per rush out of the gun, Ingram and the offense work best when the RB1 aligns at the "dot" position.
After using six-man offensive lines on 31.9 percent of the team's offensive snaps during Weeks 1-7, the Saints have featured their "heavy" package on 46.8 percent of their snaps the past two games. They have averaged 3.5 yards per play in the package during that span, which suggests the offense is able to stay on schedule when playing "big-boy football" at the line of scrimmage.