METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Alvin Kamara dismisses the notion that his approach to his second NFL camp should change because of the four-game suspension looming over fellow Saints Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram.
Whether Kamara and the running game are as effective without Ingram when the regular season opens remains to be seen. But Kamara expresses confidence in New Orleans’ plan to deal with it.
“We work hard regardless. If Mark was in the first four weeks, I’d still be working the same,” Kamara asserted after the Saints’ second practice of training camp Friday. “Of course, (Ingram) wants to be playing, but he’s got to take his four weeks — and we’ve got playmakers.”
Those playmakers include two new veteran running backs acquired in free agency to ensure depth at the position.
In the weeks leading up to training camp, the Saints signed 29-year-old Shane Vereen and 27-year-old Terrence West.
“We feel like those are two young candidates, two backs that, be it they’re a little different in what they do, but we felt that they could help us and then with regards to Mark’s snaps,” Saints coach Sean Payton, who missed Friday’s practice to attend former colleague Tony Sparano’s funeral, said this week. “Shane’s got a lot of versatility, is someone that we feel like is very good in protection. Also, he’s a very good receiver. With Terrance, you see a physical runner. So, both of those players we felt like would help us.”
The Saints ranked fifth in rushing last season, but that ranking alone doesn’t do justice to the contributions Ingram and Kamara made to the offense overall.
Ingram had arguably his finest season yet with 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing to go with 416 yards receiving. Kamara, the 2017 NFL offensive rookie of the year , had 728 yards and eight TDs rushing to go with 826 yards and five TDs receiving.
Yet, while Ingram’s absence would appear to be a tough blow, the era of Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has produced highly effective offense with a wide range of personnel getting the ball.
Brees also uses high-percentage short passes to augment the running game. That made New Orleans an attractive destination for Vereen, who has a history of helping offenses as a receiver out of the backfield more than as a rusher.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Vereen said. “What really brought me here was the culture that they built around here. Definitely this is an offense that a lot of guys want to play in.
“The way they use their backs is pretty similar to what I’m used to and it’s the type of system that I feel like I can fit into,” Vereen continued. “Just the way they spread the ball around and the points that they put up, it seems like a good place to play.”
As a member of New England’s 2014 championship squad, Vereen had 391 yards and two TDs rushing to go with 447 yards and three TDs receiving during the regular season. He also had 64 yards receiving in a Super Bowl victory over Seattle.
“I’ve admired him from afar — really respected what he was able to do in New England and then obviously in New York” with the Giants, Brees said. “He’s got a great skill set, so I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Terrence West comes to the Saints after an injury plagued 2017 with Baltimore. But two seasons ago, he had 774 yards and five TDs with the Ravens.
Meanwhile, Ingram, who can participate in camp and preseason games, said he is committed to striving for his best season yet over the 12 games for which he will be eligible.
“I’m here every day busting my butt, preparing myself to have another great season, to have my best season of my career. That’s how I approach it,” Ingram said. “Of course, you want to rush for 1,000 yards. It’ll be more of a challenge in 12 games, but it’s attainable.
“I’m going to do everything I can to be in the best shape, the best condition — the best me — so I can help this team.”
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