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NFL Draft

Why Alvin Kamara’s The Key To Saints’ Super Bowl Chances

  • The Draft Network
  • September 28, 2020
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The New Orleans Saints have been so close over the last few years. They’ve won double-digit games in each of the last three seasons, have three-straight NFC South titles, and have consistently boasted one of the best rosters in the NFL. But they haven’t quite gotten over the hump to turn all that success and strong roster-building into another Super Bowl victory.

Many picked the Saints to have that breakout season in 2020, but so far they’re not off to the start they were seeking. At 1-2, the Saints’ season is certainly not over, but the manner in which they are 1-2 has now made us question whether this roster has the makeup to go the distance.

There have been many words written and spoken about the status of quarterback Drew Brees. A sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer as one of the best to ever play the game, Brees contemplated retirement this past offseason. He ultimately decided to give it one more go and returned for another season. Father Time, as they say, is undefeated. With all the passes Brees has thrown in his 41 years of life, many wondered what was left in that arm—and if whatever was left was not just NFL caliber, but Super Bowl caliber.

You see, that’s the real angle here with the Saints and what they are going for. It’s not whether or not this Saints team can win a football game, or whether or not things can have a winning season. This year for New Orleans isn’t about just a winning season. 

If they are going to get beyond just an above .500 year, it might not be on the arm of Brees—or should I say, not just on the arm of Brees. Their best chance to do it might be on the legs of their star running back Alvin Kamara.

Yes, yes, I get it. Running backs can’t impact the game the way passers can. You’ll find no arguments from me here. But where there is truth in the fact that Brees needs to show more in his arm and how he can continue to stretch the field at 41 years of age, I also believe there is truth to how big of an impact Kamara can have on the Saints’ ability to put up points, both on the ground and through the air.

In a hard fought back-and-forth battle against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3, Kamara gained 197 yards from scrimmage with two scores, with those two scores coming on passing plays. The headliner was his masterful 52-yard scamper and score late in the third quarter that showed off his receiving ability, balance, patience, vision, football IQ, and just about everything else you could ask.

What that play told us was two things.

First and foremost, Kamara is healthy this season. Kamara battled through injuries in 2019. Ankle and knee issues forced him to miss two games and only start nine games total in the 2019 season. His numbers were still fine—well above, really, given a 4.5 yards-per-carry average and an almost third straight season of 100-plus targets—but he just didn’t quite seem like himself last year.

This year, his 4.9 YPC average and 10.6 yards-per-reception are his highest numbers over the last three seasons. His three receiving touchdowns already through three weeks nearly matches his career high of five receiving touchdowns in a single season.

The second big point we’re seeing from Kamara is that paying him was the right decision for New Orleans because of the type of back he is.

We hear so often that individual running backs hardly make a difference above their potential replacement. For most backs, I would certainly argue that point. But Kamara is one of those players that is special because of how he can impact the total gameplan, most importantly the passing game.

With wide receiver Michael Thomas out, Kamara has led the Saints in targets over the last two weeks. He caught nine of his nine targets in Week 2 against the Raiders, and caught 13 of his 14 targets in Week 3 against the Packers. He also led the team in receiving yards in both contests, too. Even with Thomas in the lineup in Week 1, Kamara saw a team-high nine targets and was tied for the most receptions that week with five.

Of the 32 starting quarterbacks, Brees is currently 17th in the league in total passing yards (Mahomes and Jackson have yet to play their Week 3 game). In terms of yards-per-game, Brees is 19th. He’s also 20th in yards-per-attempt with an average of just 7.3.

And yet the Saints are still a top-10 team in scoring at just under 30 points per game (29.3). Why? I'd argue it’s because they have one of the best offensive weapons in the league—not just running backs, true offensive weapons—in Kamara to steer their ship.

Since coming into the league, Kamara has been dynamic in every sense of the word with 2,408 rushing yards, 2,068 receiving yards, and 38 touchdowns going into this season. His 4,476 yards from scrimmage are the fifth most in the league since 2017 (the year he was drafted, so that includes a rookie year of success right out of the gate), and on top of that he is just one of four players in NFL history with more than 2,000 yards in both rushing and receiving in his first three seasons.

If the Saints are going to get to the mountain top this season, it might not look quite like we envisioned it. Anytime that’s the case, people tend to freak out, but there is a blueprint for success for New Orleans.

As stated before, Brees has to be better with his arm, and those passing numbers, especially the yards-per-attempt average, have to climb. But that shouldn’t come at the expense of getting the ball in the hands of one of their best playmakers—on the ground and through the air.

For as much as it has been about Brees to this point, and for as much as they still need him, Kamara is the key to taking them the distance in 2020.

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