After the New Orleans Saints began the season with high hopes. They had a dream of a vaunted running game with newly acquired veteran back Adrian Peterson, the always explosive Mark Ingram, and rookie Alvin Kamara. There was no sign of said running game after the first two weeks when they failed to rush for 100 yards against Minnesota and New England. Adrian Peterson was a complete non-factor, and despite having All-World QB Drew Brees and talented second year receiver Michael Thomas, the Saints fell to 0-2 to begin their season and seemed destined for another 7-9 record.
We have a problem
The rotation that New Orleans put into place for their running backs was guarenteed to fail. They had Adrian Peterson, who’d never been a part of a rotation during his tenure in Minnesota. Mark Ingram was less of a bell-cow but was still the Saints number one back. They also wanted to get a good look at the rookie out of Tennessee Alvin Kamara. New Orleans had three running backs and future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees, but only one football to split between them. Adrian Peterson is the type of running back that gets better with consistent touches, and in an offense where he wasn’t featured as the main running back, it would be a difficult transition to being a part of a committee. But the Saints clearly must have had faith since they decided to enter their 2017 season with all three potential starting running backs.
New Orleans’ rotation fell apart in Week 1, with all three of their running backs totaling a mere 53 yards on 19 carries. Adrian Peterson showed his displeasure on the sidelines with his now infamous stare down with Saints head coach Sean Payton. The Saints defense looked to be headed for another basement finish after getting handled by Sam Bradford and Tom Brady. Although the defense did pick itself up in Weeks 3-4, allowing only 13 points to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers and shutting out the Dolphins in London. But after no run game to be seen, it may have been the last straw for the Saints front office, going into their bye week with a 2-2 record and surprisingly in the running for the NFC South crown. The Saints most likely sat down and looked at all of their options and felt they could make an addition by making a subtraction.
AP goes to AZ
After gaining 81 yards on 27 carries the Saints realized that it was better for both they and disgruntled Adrian Peterson if they parted ways, and where better a place to go than the now David Johnson-less Arizona Cardinals? The move was shocking but almost expected. Saints coaches made it known during the season that they had no intentions of trading Adrian Peterson, but everyone needed it. The Cardinals got a great replacement for David Johnson, and the Saints got out from under the three-back rotation that proved each week to be ineffective.
Big games for Big Easy
Going into their Week 6 game in Detroit, the Saints now had only Ingram and Kamara to feed, this proved to be a good thing. The Saints offense exploded, the running attack in particular. Mark Ingram carried the ball a season high 25 times, totaling 114 yards and two scores, Kamara saw ten carries for 75 yards, and the Saints clobbered the Lions 52-38. Their defense was just as impressive, scoring three touchdowns of their own. It was a complete effort and they had a strong chance of continuing their dominance against the Packers in week 7.
Week 6 proved to be no fluke as the Saints won a well-played game against the Brett Hundley led Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 7. the Saints run defense looked a little off early on as Aaron Jones had multiple big runs in the first half. But the Saints prevailed and avoided a loss to a QB making his first NFL start. The Saints offense however looked strong again with another 100 yard game from Mark Ingram. Looking forward at the Saints schedule they face the Bears and Buccaneers at home before traveling to Buffalo in Week 10. These next three games will prove to be important in deciding whether the Saints have a legitimate shot at winning the NFC South. But with their team appearing to peak at the right time, and a lack of production from their NFC South rivals. I firmly believe they have that legitimate chance.
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