The Saints passing game ranks as the best in the NFL in 2012, and quarterback Drew Brees and his plethora of receivers have led New Orleans to two consecutive victories heading into Denver.
Their running game and defense, however, are on the other end of the spectrum. The Saints rank last in the league in both categories.
But in the last two games, the Saints believe they have shown improvement in those areas, and will look to continue the upward trend on Sunday night against the Broncos.
Offensive balance is how the team looks to better the run game.
“Our run-pass ratio is a little bit out of whack,” Interm Head Coach Joe Vitt said in a conference call Wednesday. “We’re going to get back to a little bit more balance. We’ve got a good set of running backs with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, and we’re trying to get Chris Ivory to the active roster. Something we continue to work on is our balance.”
The Saints attempt to rush the ball an average of 20.3 times per game – tied for the least in the league – while throwing an average of 45.5 passes per game – the second-most in the league.
But quarterback Drew Brees said that rushing statistics can be misleading, and the Saints’ ground game has been more efficient than the rankings indicate.
Still, he wants to use better balance on Sunday night.
“You want to be able to rush the ball effectively enough to where it can open up opportunities in the pass game,” Brees said. “Certainly you want to throw the ball well enough that it can open up opportunities in the run game. You just want those to be as complementary as possible. We certainly didn’t start this season off doing that very well but I feel like we’ve made improvements over the last few weeks and that’s something we want to continue to focus on improving.”
On the defensive side of the ball, New Orleans has allowed the opponent to gain 465.5 yards per game. That’s where the return of Vitt, the Saints’ linebackers coach since 2006 and now interim head coach, will play its biggest factor.
“Let’s not kid anyone,” Vitt said. “I’m a defensive coach. We have a good offense and a veteran coaching staff that has been together here for a long time. We’ve got players that have played together for a long time. I want to try to do everything I can to be a part of the defense, and do my part to help get us better.”
Also touched on during the Saints’ conference calls was the status of tight end Jimmy Graham. The 6-foot-7, 265-pounder missed last week’s game after suffering an ankle injury on Oct. 7.
“Jimmy Graham today worked out,” Vitt said. “They called it a land-based workout for him. He did some running and he did some cutting. I think he feels better.”