Saints Coach Sean Payton: We Need To Be Careful With Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara was perhaps the most explosive running back in the NFL last season, but don't expect a significant uptick in touches – even with Mark Ingram suspended four games

Tiki and Tierney
October 30, 2018 - 7:30 am

USA Today Images

Alvin Kamara was perhaps the most explosive running back in football last season, totaling 1,554 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 201 touches. Kamara was so efficient for two main reasons: one, he’s good, and two, Mark Ingram carried the ball 230 times – almost double Kamara’s 120 – for 1,124 yards and 12 scores.

It was the epitome of thunder and lighting – and it worked very, very well.

Ingram, however, is suspended for the first four games of the season. But don’t expect Kamara, who had double-digit carries in just five games last year, to suddenly get 30 touches a game.

“I think the mistake for us would be to completely change it,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said on Tiki and Tierney. “There’s a balance that we’ve had. I think it falls on Mike Gillislee, who we just signed. I think it falls on a few of the other players that we think can help offset those carries. We’ll go into (Week 1) probably with three halfbacks. I think the amount of touches and what Alvin does, we just got to be careful that we don’t tilt it too much in the other direction.”

Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Kamara, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, is on a pitch count.

“He’s going to be involved in so much of what we do in the passing game, he’s involved in what we do in the running game – he’s certainly a focal point of what we’re doing,” Payton said. “But there also needs to be someone else that’s carrying the football. I think Mike can handle that. He handled that role in New England a year ago. Mark did a phenomenal job last year and had great season. So it’s hard to take all those touches and still be as effective in the areas that we think are possibly explosive plays.”

After three consecutive 7-9 finishes, the Saints went 11-5 last season and came within one play of reaching the NFC Championship. They entered 2017 knowing they had to run the ball better, convert more third downs, and control the clock – so they did.

Having Drew Brees under center didn’t hurt, either. He completed 72.0 percent of his passes for 4,334 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Brees turns 40 in January but shows no sign of slowing down.

“I know this: He’s had a fantastic offseason, and we’ve always just focused on the upcoming season,” Payton said. “He’s someone, to his credit, who prepares tirelessly. So many of the things that we weren’t really aware of 20, 30 years ago at that position, you’re seeing a few guys – him, Brady, and those guys like Manning – really extend their careers. Our offensive line last year played outstanding. He’s excited to the start of this season. I know in his mind he hasn’t looked at one more (season) or two more (seasons). He’s looked at it like, ‘Hey, I’m healthy.’ You’re excited because you’re playing for something. You feel like you’ve got a good surrounding cast.”

The Saints open the season at home against the Buccaneers and Browns in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. Kickoff for both games is slated for 1 p.m. ET.