The Saints have relied heavily on their running game during their transition to the post-Drew Brees era in 2021.
New Orleans has run the ball 46.5 percent of the time this season. That’s good for the sixth-highest mark in the NFL. The team has relied on Alvin Kamara and, in recent weeks, Mark Ingram to carry the load and spark its offense.
But on Thanksgiving Day, the Saints will have to look elsewhere for running back production.
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Both Kamara and Ingram are dealing with knee injuries and are going to be out of action for the team’s Week 12 game against the Bills. That will force them to look further down their depth chart to find productive backs that can take some pressure off quarterback Trevor Siemian.
Who might those running backs be? Here’s a look at who tops the Saints’ backfield depth chart ahead of their Thursday night clash with Buffalo.
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Saints RB depth chart
The Saints have some experience at running back despite the absences of Kamara and Ingram. Their four remaining running backs have a combined 586 career NFL carries, but the team’s expected No. 1 option has the fewest of the bunch.
1. Tony Jones Jr.
Jones is expected to be the top running back for the Saints in this contest. He is a second-year player who went undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2020 and spent his first season on the Saints’ practice squad.
Jones, 24, won a 53-man roster spot in 2021 and began the season as the Saints’ top backup following the release of Latavius Murray. However, Jones suffered an ankle injury in Week 4 and was placed on IR. He was activated in Week 11 and continued to serve as the top backup, as Kamara was out of action.
So far this season, Jones has averaged 11.2 snaps per game played. He will likely see significantly more than that as the primary running back against the Bills. Jones has 22 carries for 79 yards this season and has caught four passes for 10 yards as well.
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2. Dwayne Washington
Washington, 27, has carved out a role for himself as a special teams ace since being a seventh-round pick by the Lions in 2016. However, he will be asked to do more as a running back against the Bills on Thursday.
Washington has been with the Saints since 2018 and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry during those four seasons. Granted, he has just 47 rushing attempts, but he has proven that he can succeed between the tackles.
The Saints will likely use Washington as a power-back complement to the shiftier Jones. Washington (6-1) is bigger than Jones (5-11) though they weigh about the same; Washington is 223 pounds while Jones weighs 224.
Still, given that Jones has never handled a full workload at the NFL level, it would make sense for the Saints to mix Washington into some short-yardage and goal-line situations. Washington is also the longest-tenured healthy running back on the Saints’ roster, so his experience gives him an edge for the backup job.
3. Ty Montgomery
Yes, Ty Montgomery is technically a receiver. However, he has played running back at times during his career. He had to convert to the position during his second season with the Packers in 2016, as they dealt with numerous injuries at the position and needed somebody to take over. Montgomery stepped up and proved to be an effective playmaker.
Montgomery has bounced between the two positions during his career but has largely played receiver for the Saints. He has lined up in the backfield just 18 times this season but he will almost certainly do so more against the Bills. He figures to serve as a third-down back that can spell Jones as needed.
Montgomery has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 8.2 yards per catch during his career. He has more rushing yards (114) than receiving yards (81) during his two seasons with the Saints.
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4. Josh Adams
Adams is currently on the practice squad for the Saints. They signed him after the team held running back tryouts in early November while Kamara dealt with his knee injury. Adams has yet to play a game for the Saints but could be called up to the active roster to provide more depth at running back.
Adams began his career with the Eagles in 2018, and he racked up 511 rushing yards and three touchdowns as an undrafted rookie out of Georgia Tech. He has generated just 169 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries in three seasons since.