Saints, Packers pass first, but don’t overlook RBsGREEN BAY, Wis. — Drew Brees and the passing game might be the first things that come to mind when people think about the New Orleans Saints. After some significant offseason additions, the guys lining up behind Brees are worthy of attention, too.
By: Chris Jenkins, The Associated Press
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Drew Brees and the passing game might be the first things that come to mind when people think about the New Orleans Saints. After some significant offseason additions, the guys lining up behind Brees are worthy of attention, too.
Going into Thursday night’s season opener at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers’ defense is preparing to face a Saints team with a renewed commitment to the running game and the players to make it happen. Reggie Bush is gone, but Pierre Thomas returns after being slowed by an ankle injury last season. He’s joined by free agent addition Darren Sproles and first-round pick Mark Ingram.
“When they won the Super Bowl, I think that’s what made them so good,” Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop said. “Because they mixed it up. I think last year, there were different backs in and out. So I’m sure they’ll get back to their running game, and that just makes their passing game that much more potent. We’ve got our hands full.”
Certainly, Thursday night will be a showcase for two of the NFL’s best passing offenses. But given the fact that both teams will be expected to pile up yards and score points through the air, the game could be decided by which team has the more reliable running game — keeping the opposing offense off the field early, then killing the clock and holding onto the lead late in the game.
And while the running game was an offseason priority for the Saints, the state of the Packers’ ground game remains unclear.
Ryan Grant is back from a season-ending ankle injury, and James Starks is hoping to build on last year’s success when he was a rookie. But it’s not yet clear how the Packers will split carries between Grant and Starks — or how they might work in rookie Alex Green or fullback John Kuhn in third-down duty.
Packers running backs coach Jerry Fontenot said Grant and Starks will share the load.
“We’ll have to see,” Fontenot said. “It’s still kind of a work in progress, but both of those guys have similar abilities in terms of what they can do with the football once they get their hands on it. They’re both physical runners, they both do very good things in the two-back offense.