Saints: Five brave predictions for 2017

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Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) (left) greets New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) after the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

 The New Orleans Saints are the quiet waters of the offseason. It’s the perfect time for some predictions.

The New Orleans Saints won’t be making headline news for some time now. Training camp is a ways away, most free agents are signed and getting in shape. Injuries and the occasional budget-bin signing are all that’s left for breaking news. (I’d thank you for no more injury news, Saints. But I wouldn’t mind an Elvis Dumervil signing…) So now it’s time to sit back, read some analysis and make some predictions.

We’ve already broken down our season predictions for you. But let’s look more closely at the team. A lot has changed since 2016, and the Saints are ripe for an improved season. But there’s plenty left to wonder about.

Rookies are set to contribute all along the roster. Free agents on defense and along the OL will determine how improved this team is. A fourth 7-9 season seems impossible: the question is, will the team be better or worse?

Let’s start our bold predictions with one of the most high-profile position changes. Running back.

Either Ingram or Peterson — or both — will be unhappy with their snap count.

Saints fans made a lot of fuss over the Saints’ addition of Adrian Peterson. But at the time, I didn’t buy into the problem. Adrian Peterson is a hall of famer, sure. But Mark Ingram had the starting gig locked. And with Tim Hightower leaving for the Niners, the Saints had carries to spare for Peterson.

All that changed when the Saints drafted Alvin Kamara. Here’s the thing. People like to compare Kamara with the joker backs in Payton’s past: Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas. But Kamara is not like these guys.

He’s more versatile then each of them.

That’s not to say that he’s better than Bush or Sproles, or even Thomas. He very well might be. But we don’t know that yet. What I mean is that he is a different sort of back. Bush and Sproles were almost exclusively receivers. Sure, they both got their carries in an attempt to keep the defense honest. But that’s not what they were on the field for. Kamara is closer to Thomas in that respect. Thomas saw a large portion of his role as a ball carrier, and then had his biggest impact in the screen game.

But Kamara can do all of this. He doesn’t have the straight-line speed of Bush, or the shiftiness of Sproles. But he can run just about every route that they can run, and he can cause just as much havoc in open space. Add to that the fact that he can run between the tackles as well as he can receive, and you’ll see why AD and Ingram’s carries are in jeopardy. The Saints are at their most unpredictable when Kamara is on the field. And that spells a lot of field-time for the rookie.

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