(Houston, TX) — A compelling backup running back battle is occurring in New Orleans. With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram solidified as the top two rushers, the remaining four toted the ball on Saturday night in Houston.
DENNIS ALLEN ON SMITH
Dennis Allen said of Smith, "You can't put the ball on the ground. That's a huge negative when you when you do that." The head coach had minor praise but returned to the fumbling. "I will say this. I thought he looked explosive running the football. And I thought there was a couple of really good runs that he made. But it doesn't matter how many good things you do if you put the football on the ground, that's an issue."
SMITH ON HIS DEBUT
We all just want to compete, you know, do our best, of course, so, so go out there and do the best we can, whenever we get our chances, you know, it's like, you can sit there and count the reps and make the reps count. And that's what we all did today," Smith said.
The one glaring negative of the rusher's night was losing the fumble and costing his team points on the board. Smith recounted the play, "I tucked my shoulder on one dude, I didn't see the dude to the right of me. And, we talked about it in practice. It's the 'top down, punch out.' And that's exactly what he hit me with. So it's better ball security. Got to kind of roll with the punches, rather than just see one, got to see everybody and learn from mistakes, and come back better."
THE RUNNING BACKS BATTLE & PRODUCTION
Offensive and Special Teams Snap Counts
Ozigbo led the offensive snaps at 29%, Washington and Jones Jr. each had 25%, and rookie Abram Smith notched 22%. Ozigbo and Smtih participated in 14% of the special teams' plays, Jones 9%, and Washington 0% (not surprising since he's known as a special teams ace).
The Baylor rookie was active in the second half for New Orleans. Smith led the ball carriers with 7 rushes for 30 yards (4.3 avg). Jones Jr. had 7 carries for 27 yards (3.9), Ozigbo 8 carries for 26 yards (3.3 avg), and Washington 9 carries for 19 yards (2.1 avg).
Washington caught 3 passes (3 targets) for 18 yards, Smith 1 pass (3 targets) for 12 yards, Jones Jr. 1 pass (1 target), and Ozigbo 1 pass (2 targets) for a -1 yard.
Jones Jr. returned 3 kickoffs for 73 yards (24.3 avg), where his longest return was 31 yards.
The troublesome part of the night for the running backs was when Washington fumbled once and Smith coughed up the football inside the five-yard line. The ball security issue was a hard lesson for Smith, but you notice the potential in the young player.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR SMITH
Next week, he should have more opportunities against Green Bay, especially during the joint practice sessions. The last stanza of his training camp audition will conclude in the preseason finale against the Chargers on Aug. 26 at home.
Who will be with Kamara and Ingram marching in the football this season may come down to the bitter end. I recall back in a 2007 camp battle between an undrafted Pierre Thomas and fourth-round pick Antonio Pittman. Thomas was clearly more energetic and produced results in practice and preseason game action.
Sean Payton alluded that if he chose the draft choice over Thomas, would the decision have had negative repercussions in his locker room?
The rest is history for the first man to score a touchdown for the New Orleans Saints in a Super Bowl. Could Smith, Ozigbo, Washington, or Jones Jr. be next?
We shall see.