Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Lots of folks are getting excited for Sunday Night’s Seahawks vs. Eagles game, and with good cause. But personally, I’m more intrigued by the Sunday afternoon matchup between the Saints and the Panthers. Divisional rivals, sure, but also two teams that enter the contest with identical 8-3 records atop the NFC South and a lot on the line. New Orleans has been something of a surprise to many this season, following three consecutive losing seasons. One big reason for the dramatic turnaround is a more balanced offensive scheme that doesn’t rely exclusively on Drew Brees throwing the long ball. With the addition of versatile rookie Alvin Kamara to the running back platoon, the Saints’ offense has become one of the league’s top overall units. They rank behind only the Patriots in total yards and passing yards, that’s no surprise. What’s surprising is that the Saints now rank third in the league in rushing yards. In the revamped scheme, Kamara acts as a second back behind veteran Mark Ingram, and Ingram is just fine sharing the responsibilities. Ingram is on his way to the highest rushing yardage total of his career, and has been the fifth most productive back in the league thanks to a balanced attack and fresher legs. The rookie Kamara isn’t far behind, ranked seventeenth in the league in rushing yards, but he’s also among the league’s top forty in receiving yardage, and the highest ranked on that list among running backs. Kamara possesses a unique combination of speed and balance and can make people miss with controlled accelerations that simply baffle defenders attempting to take a line towards him. While he didn’t show crazy speed at the combine, clocking in just above 4.5 seconds in the forty, he more than makes up for it with his twitchiness and ability to gain yards after contact. As a receiver, Kamara has become Brees’ number two target, behind Michael Thomas, where he has been equally effective at gaining yards, averaging over ten yards per catch. Kamara leads the team in both all-purpose yards and touchdowns. He’s the sort of player who can change the game any time he touches the ball. This weekend, the Carolina defense will have to work really, really hard to keep the versatile rookie in check. I’m looking for Kamara to have a big day, as Brees will use him frequently on check-downs when the Panthers’ secondary has his big play targets blanketed. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks free in the flat.
With the fading of Chief’s RB Kareem Hunt down the stretch and the fact that he has the same skill set as Panthers’ rookie Christian McCaffrey, only much more productive, Kamara has to be considered one of this year’s top picks for rookie of the year.
Image source: Twitter.com/Saints
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.