Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara still searching for nickname to fit Saints’ brilliant duo
The unique one-two punch that has driven the Saints to the top of the NFC South this season has been so brilliant that the New Orleans fan base has been racking its brain trying to think of a nickname.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara see suggestions on their Twitter accounts all the time.
“Thunder and lightning” has been done before. “Smash and dash” came close.
Ingram likes “Boom and Zoom.”
“It’s kind of unique, and I haven’t heard of that before,” Ingram said. “I think that’s my favorite one so far.”
The hard part is most of the nicknames have been based on a power-and-speed theme, a cliché that doesn’t quite fit.
“I do not want a nickname that just makes me seem like the big power back, because that is not me,” Ingram said. “I feel like I can do it all and be versatile in many ways. I like a name that can reflect that.”
Ingram handles more of the between-the-tackles grind, to be sure, and Kamara’s ability in space has been electric, but the quality that makes the duo so great is that each back is capable of just about anything the Saints need him to do.
“Run or pass, we’re not uncomfortable having either of them in there,” offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. “It’s a nice situation to be in, because, as you go down the final call sheet for the game, you’re really comfortable having either guy in.”
New Orleans is not the first team to pair two backs with similar skill sets.
As coach Sean Payton pointed out on Monday, the Saints’ opponent this week, the Atlanta Falcons, have a similar embarrassment of riches at the running back position in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, another dual-threat duo.
“You see them do all the same things very well, but I think most important to me is when I see guys excited genuinely for each other regardless of whether it is their carry,” Payton said. “As soon as you start getting that on a team, guys caring more about the win and less about their own (stats), then you begin to have a chance to have something.”
The camaraderie between Ingram and Kamara is obvious.
They’re always near each other, and ever since the win over Buffalo, they have conducted post-game interviews together. When Ingram broke free on a 72-yard run on Sunday against Carolina, Kamara was so excited that he had the urge to get on the field and lay a block on a Panthers defender.
“I was about to run on the field,” Kamara said. “It is one of those things where you see how someone prepares all week. He performs the way he practices. He runs like that during practice. I wasn’t surprised. I was just hyped.”
Ingram, on the other hand, has been delighted by Kamara’s highlight-reel runs and tackle-breaking ability, just like the rest of the NFL.
New Orleans drafted Kamara knowing about his skills in the passing game, but his ability as a runner has surprised even the Saints. Kamara leads the league at an eye-popping 7.0 yards per carry, and the 8.4 yards he’s averaging per touch would be the most for any running back in the past 25 seasons, beating out Darren Sproles’ 7.6 for the Saints in 2011.
“Honestly, if we would have known what we were going to get as a runner, we would not have taken him in the third round,” Payton said. “We would have earlier. It might not have been good for (Marshon) Lattimore.”
Lattimore, of course, was the No. 11 pick.
Ingram, who ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing with 922 yards and sixth in yards from scrimmage, has teamed with Kamara, fourth in yards from scrimmage, so well that a nickname for the pair is probably well deserved.
Kamara might have offered a clue last week.
Asked to describe his ability to evade tackles, Kamara said he goes into “Matrix mode,” a movie reference that Ingram brought up again Sunday to describe the way he embarrassed Carolina safety Mike Adams down the sideline.
In the Matrix, a battle-tested, talented veteran leader teams up with a protegé who has otherworldly gifts.
In other words, Ingram plays the role of Morpheus for the Saints. Kamara is Neo.
Whichever name eventually sticks, the pair is tearing through NFL defenses at a rate few tandems ever have before, all in an offense that has been known for its passing game for most of the past decade under Payton and quarterback Drew Brees.
“I felt like it was a possibility if we ran the ball,” Ingram said. “I just know the offense is wide open, and it puts us in primary position to make plays. I feel like we give the backs carries, and I felt like it was possible especially for one, maybe not two. But it’s just crazy how it’s happening this year.”
So crazy it can be difficult to describe.