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Sean Payton: New Orleans Saints will stress run game

Let's face it, there were too many running backs on the New Orleans Saints last season.

The Saints' four-man backfield too often plodded around in a confused state, cancelling each other out. But those days are over, Pierre Thomas says.

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With Chris Ivory's departure to the New York Jets, a committee of Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles is tasked with turning around the league's 25th-ranked run game. We like their chances.

"When we had our first team meeting, (coach Sean Payton) talked about that," Thomas told The Times-Picayune on Wednesday. " ... There's going to be more focus this year on that ground game than any year. He said we've got to get back to running the ball, having 100-yard games nonstop. I can't wait. I'm excited, and I know everybody else is excited."

Thomas lauded Ivory as a "big weapon," but Thomas acknowledged that a "less crowded" roster will lift the haze and boost production. Thomas pumped out just 473 yards on 105 carries last season. Ingram led the pack with only 602 yards, but those numbers should climb for both men. Sproles, meanwhile, is a sometimes devastating receiver and a Saints X factor.

The Saints, behind Drew Brees, have been a pass-happy operation for ages, but a thin cast of wideouts has Payton counting on the run. People forget that the Saints produced the NFL's sixth-best ground game just two seasons ago, and -- if that line holds up -- don't be surprised to see the team duplicate those numbers in 2013.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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