In the Saints’ backfield, Kamara brings versatility and explosive ability to the table. A slashing runner with burst, the 5-foot-10 running back averaged 6.2 yards per carry in two seasons at Tennessee to go with 74 receptions for 683 yards. As a rookie, Kamara can be a weapon on third down in the passing game and splitting out of the backfield.
“This guy is in the Christian McCaffrey-type role,” one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “McCaffrey has done it longer. Kamara has limited carries.”
An in-depth look at that championship season reveals that Payton led the most balanced offensive unit of his tenure in New Orleans, running the ball on 45 percent of snaps and passing 55 percent of the time. This was the best version of the Saints’ offense, with the play calling of Payton, the execution of Brees and cheap jerseys and the diversity of the backfield. Some might argue the Saints were better statistically in 2011, but we could do anything at any time to any defense in ’09. And winning the Lombardi Trophy proved it. Whereas the ’11 team couldn’t come from behind in the Divisional Round, ending its chances at the franchise’s second title two years later.
When you look at the way Payton’s 2017 offense has been built this offseason, it’s clear the blueprint is very similar to the ’09 unit — but this time, there’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame-caliber back in the mix. Adrian Peterson, the best running back of the last decade, has joined Mark Ingram in a ground game that ranked 16th in the league a year ago. New Orleans also added promising Tennessee product Alvin Kamara in last month’s draft, creating a new three-headed monster to line up behind Brees, who led the league’s No. 1 total offense and passing offense in 2016.
When the (draft) process started, we were talking about him in the late teens, early 20s. I think he’s back up here in the mix right around the top 10 because he’s so explosive off the edge. The effort just blows you away with how hard he plays.
He really could be a three-phase player on defense, special teams, and offense as an occasional gadget player. He’s not quite polished at corner, but he could be a Pro Bowl punt returner from Day 1.
The injuries were just too much for Lewis to overcome. The Saints telegraphed this move earlier this week when they signed Cortland Finnegan. They have decent cornerback depth with Delvin Breaux and second-year pro P.J. Williams, who has enjoyed a nice training camp.
Lewis was a sensible signing at the time, but he’s an example of the struggles the Saints have been plagued with when signing defensive backs in free agency. Safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Brandon Browner and cornerback Champ Bailey also were misfires.
Two straight runs at the heart of New Orleans’ vaunted front seven net Pittsburgh just 3 yards, with key tackles by middle linebacker Vaughan Johnson and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Rickey Jackson. Precious seconds erode from the game clock.
“Like throwing popcorn at a battle ship, trying to run inside like that,” former Chiefs head coach Hank Stram quips alongside Tim Brant from the CBS Sports booth. He’s been barking for the Steelers to try something to the outside. And on third-and-goal, Stram gets his wish.
The Saints will host Mixon for an upcoming visit, coach Sean Payton told The Advocate on Wednesday at the Annual League Meeting. The Saints were also among four clubs to meet with Mixon, the 2017 NFL Draft’s most controversial prospect, the night before his pro-day workout earlier this month.
Mixon punched a female OU student in 2014 as a freshman, resulting in his suspension from the team for a season, and a misdemeanor criminal charge of acts resulting in gross injury. The case was settled on a plea agreement, but more than two years later, the incident remains of significant importance to NFL clubs trying to evaluate Mixon’s character. Mixon is one of the most talented rushers available in the draft, but the incident precluded him from being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine due to a conduct policy. That’s made it more difficult for clubs to evaluate the former Sooners star, which Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn lamented at the combine. The New England Patriots will not consider drafting Mixon, per the Boston Herald, and according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, the Patriots aren’t alone.