A rookie, a Pro Bowler, and a future-Hall of Famer present historic possibilities for the Saints.
As much as head coach Sean Payton has helped out Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game since 2006, many forget that he began his coaching career with running backs. Many forget that before he was head coach of the Saints, and even before he was an offensive coordinator with the Cowboys, he was the running backs coach for Indiana State University in 1990 and San Diego State University in 1992.
Since he’s come to New Orleans, Payton has coached backs such as Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, and Pierre Thomas. All three of those players had shining seasons with the Saints. Each back had at least one season of 1,000 or more yards from scrimmage/special teams. That factor is often what made those offenses legendary. Especially when done consistently.
However, the Saints have never had 3 different running backs accumulate 1,000 all-purpose yards in one season.
That could change in 2017.
Mark Ingram has gotten better every single year for the Saints since being drafted in 2012. The former Heisman Trophy-winner has developed into New Orleans’ number one back. And he picked up a Pro Bowl appearance along the way. Last season, Ingram amassed 1,043 rushing yards and 319 receiving yards (1,364 yards total). His bruising style of running compliments the finesse-style offense of New Orleans. He gives the Saints an extra dimension.
The Saints improved upon that dimension tremendously this offseason with the addition of Peterson. The former-Viking rushed for just 50 yards last year before suffering a season-ending injury in game 2. He came back in week 17 and gained an additional 22 yards. But Peterson is also just 5 years removed from rushing for over 2,000 yards. The 32-year old hasn’t lost a step, though. He gained over 1,600 yards from scrimmage in 2015, including 1,485 rushing yards.
Kamara, the rookie running back from Tennessee, is the wild card here. He never gained 1,000 or more yards from scrimmage at UT, but only played in 12 games (average) per season. He’ll have 4 more games to gain more yards, and he was an above-average punt returner for the Volunteers. All of those factors, plus the finesse-style the Saints’ bring on offense, could spell a fantastic rookie season for Kamara.
Peterson’s health is the main bump in the road here.
He’s coming off of a torn meniscus, which isn’t the first major injury he’s suffered while in the NFL. He also suffered a torn ACL in 2011. Peterson seems superhuman, though, as he recovers very well from injuries. He only missed 14 weeks last year after tearing his meniscus, an injury that would keep most players out for the entire season even if suffered in August.
The number of touches Kamara will get is the other x-factor here if we’ll see three 1,000 yard players this season.
Will he become a Darren Sproles-type player right away and be featured heavily? Hard to tell, even with his impressive performance thus far at workouts. Brees can spread the ball out, favoring Kamara’s chances at the milestone.
There is still confidence that all three can have 1,000 scrimmage yard-seasons, especially if Brees slings it as well as he has in the past. The fact that the Saints’ backfield is so loaded that all of this is a possibility makes fans ecstatic. So, to answer the question: yes, the Saints could pull this feat off. And it’s easier than you may think.