Adrian Peterson will help the Saints, whether in form or not
‘Regardless of how much he’s got left in the tank, damn he’s gonna look good running in a Saints uniform.’
That was my first thought back in April when news broke that the Saints had signed Adrian Peterson. It’s hard to imagine that defensive coaches around the NFL weren’t feeling the same way.
Much has been made of AP’s perceived nose-dive from the top of the running back heap since his injury last year (and his uninspiring performance before that). But it’s the context of his first season in New Orleans that will be vastly different from his last in Minnesota. With the Vikings, Peterson was operating behind an offensive line ranked 29th in the league, a line Pro Football Focus labelled as ‘a disaster’. And under center for that O-line? Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford.
The same Sam Bradford who the Vikings acquired via trade only one week before the regular season started. Between Shaun Hill’s ineptitude and Sam Bradford’s inexperience in Norv Turner’s scheme, defensive coordinators were salivating at the opportunity to stack the box and ramp up the pressure on the offensive backfield.
That meant bad news for the ‘disastrous’ Vikings O-line, and in turn, any Vikings running backs. In New Orleans, Peterson will be sitting pretty behind a line which ranked 12th last year according to Pro Football Focus (even without star LT Terron Armstead for the majority of the season) and a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees.
This new situation for Peterson is sure to be in the minds of Saints opponents in 2017.
And when Sean Payton rolls him out on first down it will be hard for defensive coordinators to ignore his presence. The more people they bring down into the box to stifle him, the more freedom the aerial attack has to flourish — especially on play action.
Payton has always been adept at exploiting defenses just by using different personnel groupings, and Adrian Peterson will fit in perfectly with that philosophy. Opponents will have to respect the potential for him to bust out on any play, so just by occupying the field, Peterson will be a boon to the offense.
NFL coaches are smarter than to write off Adrian Peterson as being over-the-hill, or unable to return from this last injury. The last time the NFL underestimated Peterson following an injury, he came within 9 yards of the single-season rushing record. That’s the kind of thing coaches tend to remember.
If Frank Gore could reach 1302 total yards and 8 touchdowns last year at age 34 (also behind a sub-par offensive line), it’s a safe bet that defenses will keep a close eye on where Adrian Peterson is this year. He’s a physical anomaly. Regardless of how old he is, or how many injuries he endures, he will always have the potential to impact a game.
Coaches in the NFL understand that to be successful, you have to give your team the best chance to win on every play. They won’t leave it to chance to stop Adrian Peterson. His presence on the field and the focus he draws from defenses will create opportunities for every player in the Saints offense.