Plenty of talented running backs have sported the fleur de lis of the New Orleans Saints. Chuck Muncie, George Rogers, Dalton Hilliard, Ricky Williams, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles spent time in New Orleans. So did Jim Taylor and Earl Campbell, Hall of Famers who played out the string with the Saints. But New Orleans has never assembled a stable of backs like this one. “I’ve been a part of a lot of great rooms here in New Orleans but, just from top to bottom, this is probably the best group,” running back Mark Ingram said. Ingram is the incumbent, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner who overcame a slow start with the Saints to become a devastating all-around back, a man who will finish high on the team’s career rushing lists and is coming off his best season. Adrian Peterson is the legend, the 2012 NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer with the violent, powerful running style who believes he still has something left after nearly 2,500 carries in the NFL. And then there’s Alvin Kamara, the rookie who spent his first preseason displaying an eye-popping skill set and a silky smooth quickness that belies his surprising power. A team with those three backs seems set up to run, to pound the ball down the defense’s throat and throw only when absolutely necessary. But this is still the Saints offense, Drew Brees is still the quarterback and he still has a talented group of receivers at his disposal, led by Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. The 38-year-old is coming off his third straight season — and his fifth in the past six — of leading the NFL in passing yards. Brees has always been able to carve teams up through the air under coach Sean Payton, but the ground game hasn’t often been able to match that dominance. New Orleans is hoping it has built an offense that can beat teams both ways. “There are some weeks where, if a team’s stacking up and playing the run better, then we have to be smart enough to understand how to handle that team, versus a team where we might feel like it’d be more difficult throwing the football,” Payton said. “Week to week, we really try to study who we’re playing and what’s the best way to score.” New Orleans has only finished higher than 19th in the NFL in rushing attempts twice during the Brees era: The Saints were 12th during the magical 2006 season and ranked seventh in 2009, the year the franchise won its only Super Bowl. During that time, the Saints’ efficiency in the running game has fluctuated, finishing in the top six three times (in 2009, 2011 and 2014) and adding a few other top-15 finishes. This offense might be capable of giving the Saints the kind of balance and flexibility that has marked its best versions. “We’ve got the guys to do it,” Ingram said. “I ain’t going to take the ball out of (Brees’) hands too much, but we need to run that thing, for sure.” A better running game makes life easier on Brees, who faces far fewer third-and-longs, reaps the benefit of play action and largely gets to avoid the pass rush. “I’ve been feeling the energy,” Peterson said. “You look on social media, and you see how people feel about me getting out there and being the two-headed monster with Mark Ingram and being behind Drew Brees.” If this Saints’ backfield lives up to its billing, the possibilities seem endless.