Saints refining plan for running backs without Peterson
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara performed well enough to make the once invaluable Adrian Peterson expendable in New Orleans.
Time will tell if Ingram and Kamara will perform even better now that game plans and practice snaps and game plans are even more focused on them, now that Peterson has been traded to Arizona for a conditional draft choice.
“This was done just using common sense,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of the Peterson trade. “We had a chance to get a draft pick next year. I know Arizona was short at this position. There’s a confidence level we have with the way Mark and Alvin are playing.
“One of the challenges, obviously, when you have the depth we have is having enough touches for all these guys,” Payton added. “We drafted (Kamara) and ended up finding a good, young prospect who has played well.”
Not only was Peterson never featured in Payton’s offense in his four games with the Saints, but he was caught on camera glaring and shouting at the Saints’ coach in the regular season opener in Minnesota, where Peterson had spent the first 10 years of his career and had said he hoped to play well. Peterson later said that although he knew he would not have a workhorse role in New Orleans pass-heavy offense, he “didn’t sign up” for as little action as he was getting.
But Payton asserted there was no intent to marginalize Peterson because of his attitude, in much the same way the coach insisted his relationship with Brandin Cooks was fine when he traded the receiver to New England in the first offseason after Cooks complained about a lack of passes being thrown to him.
“Adrian and I have talked a ton each week,” Payton said. “Our relationship, I’d say, has been fantastic. It was an opportunity, really, where he was going to obviously get somewhere and be featured more and I am happy that that opportunity has come up and we were able to make the trade.”
From the day Peterson arrived in New Orleans, Ingram asserted that he wasn’t fazed and that it wouldn’t change his mindset of always aiming to show he was the best running back on the team.
“That’s just how I was brought up, man. I’m always going to compete, never shy away from competition, never shy away from anything,” Ingram said. “So no matter who is here or wherever I’m at, I’m always going to compete, I’m going to fight and put my best foot forward. So it just is what it is. I mean, he’s a great player. He still has a lot of juice left in the tank. He can go. I’m hoping that he goes and proves it in Arizona.”
The Saints running game hasn’t produced much this season, but Ingram and Kamara both are active catching passes out of the backfield in an offense that has elements of the West Coast scheme Bill Walsh ran with San Francisco in the 1980s.
This season, Ingram has 295 yards from scrimmage, including 170 yards on 42 rushes — about 4 yards per carry. Kamara has 147 yards receiving and 83 rushing.
“Those guys have shown what they can do in all situations,” Brees said. “They are two very complete backs, you know, that can be in in any given situation whether that’s running in between the tackles or outside the tackles or catching balls out of the backfield splitting them out, picking up protection — you know those guys can do it all.”
Peterson carried 27 times 81 yards — 3 yards per carry. He caught two passes for 4 yards. In all, Peterson had been on the field for an average of 11 offensive snaps per game.
But the running backs who remain in New Orleans spoke highly of him.
“All the experience he has, he was trying to funnel as much as he could into me,” Kamara said. “Anything I needed to know, he was an open book and I was thankful for that. I let him know that through a text.”
Payton has long said he views depth as important at running back, a physical position where injuries are common. But Payton offered a vote of confidence to undrafted rookie Trey Edmunds, who made the team as a special teams regular and Daniel Lasco, a 2016 seventh-round draft pick currently on practice squad.
“Of course, I was surprised,” Edmunds said of Tuesday’s trade. “I was just blessed to have the opportunity to meet him and just to play alongside him and be mentored by him in the short little bit of time we did have. I do appreciate him for that. He taught me some things and I appreciate him for doing that, because he didn’t have to, you know?”
Notes: Payton said WR Willie Snead, who missed New Orleans previous game with a hamstring injury, is ready to return, but practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday. Also limited was LT Terron Armstead, who is trying come back from offseason shoulder surgery. ... Edmunds (concussion), TE Josh Hill (concussion) and CB Sterling Moore (chest) all fully participated in practice.