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What if: New Orleans Saints edition

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Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks with quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton talks with quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-11. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 10: Kam Chancellor
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 10: Kam Chancellor /

WHAT IF: ADRIAN PETERSON CAN’T STAY HEALTHY?

The hype surrounding a potentially historic and record-breaking offense only escalated when the Saints signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson. Rightfully so. The future Hall of Famer looks poised to prove wrong his former team in Minnesota and all his doubters that said he’s too old.

Although Peterson is a “beast” in his own right, he wasn’t that way last season. AP has only played in 20 games since the end of the 2013 season. On the other hand, 15 of those games were missed because of the child abuse scandal he faced in 2014, where he was suspended for the season following one game.

If there’s one thing that’s consistently true in life, it’s this: you simply can’t beat father time. But that’s exactly what Peterson looks to do. He recently said in an interview that he wants to play until he’s 37 according to the New Orleans Advocate, “It’s a good number…approaching 40.”

Playing running back in the NFL for that long is nearly unprecedented. Only Hall of Famer Marcus Allen really compares to such numbers. Allen played 16 NFL seasons, but by the end of his career, he wasn’t the starter anymore. Moreover, Peterson will be sharing the load in the backfield with the talents of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. There’s no reason to think he can’t make it that long.

“All Day” has recovered from injuries before and had successful seasons. He led the league with 2,097 rushing yards in 2012, one year removed from a knee injury. And early reports coming out of Saints minicamp and OTA’s is that Peterson looks great and is impressing everyone who sees him with his strength and speed.

But what if Father Time DOES catch up with Peterson this season, and the knee injury rears its ugly head once again?

Incidentally, it’s not hard to tell that Sean Payton sees a powerful 1-2 punch with Ingram and Peterson splitting carries. And although Mark Ingram has secured himself at least for now on the top of the depth chart, he has been in Payton’s doghouse the past few seasons on occasion. No doubt it’s because of ball handling issues Ingram had that led to Payton benching him for stretches of games last year. Although the team is high on Alvin Kamara, is he really ready to be a workhouse in an NFL backfield?

If Peterson goes down with an injury, and Ingram lands in the doghouse once again this season, that will leave all the pressure on Kamara to step up. Kamara has a special skill set. But that skill set is largely based on speed and shiftiness, not so much power and barreling over defenders.

The reality of the situation is this: New Orleans cannot afford to have Adrian Peterson miss a significant amount of time. They will be able to manage with him missing a few games if necessary. But the Saints need to see their beast of the backfield in pads more often than in a hoodie on gameday. Peterson missing a significant amount of time could spell another disappointing season in New Orleans. Injuries already have bitten the Saints in the offseason thus far. They can ill afford to have another injury derail them during the season.

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