Don't forget about Pierre Thomas

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
1:57
PM ET
He’s not the next Reggie Bush because Darren Sproles has that tag. He’s not the next Deuce McAllister because Mark Ingram's been handed that label.

Pierre Thomas, the lone holdover in the New Orleans backfield, is simply Pierre Thomas and that’s not a bad thing.

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans' Pierre Thomas
AP Photo/Bill HaberPierre Thomas was limited to playing in just six games last season, gaining 269 yards rushing and 201 receiving.
“I think once the game starts, the player in Pierre’s case will have a very important role with us,’’ New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “There’s always that attention drawn to the first-round draft pick. But [Thomas] definitely has a significant role with what we do and was a big reason why, and his role is a big reason why the club signed him [to a new contract in the offseason]. There’ll be plenty of touches not only for Pierre, but for Mark and Darren and it’s our job to mix those up and also to let the running back get comfortable and get in a rhythm when he’s in the game.”

Sproles is expected to fill Bush’s old role, catching passes out of the backfield and getting some carries that mostly will go to the outside. There even has been talk that Sproles may be able to do more than Bush and make the offense more diverse.

“I think there’s some truth to it," quarterback Drew Brees said. “Darren’s a veteran player who when you really go back and study his role in San Diego, they did a really good job. First off, you see him in the kicking game and we’ll have an opportunity to see him play in those roles for us. You’ll see him in packages not only on third down, but on first and second down. He’s very intelligent and I think the one thing that surprised us that may be harder to see on film but we’ve seen in person is his ability as a running back not just outside but with a lot of the things we do with our running game. We’ll see, as the season goes on you develop a personality as an offense and you begin to settle in on things that you feel like you do well.”

But, despite all the attention on Ingram and Sproles, there’s no doubt Thomas will remain a part of the personality of the offense. Like Ingram, Thomas is a complete and versatile back. He can run inside and outside and also can catch passes.

One of the best things about Payton’s offense is a lot of people are going to touch the ball. That means Thomas will get his chances.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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