Alvin Kamara Touches May Increase in 2021

Alvin Kamara Touches

With an unsettled quarterback position and news that top wide receiver Michael Thomas will miss the start of the season, things are looking grim for the New Orleans Saints. Alvin Kamara may be seeing more touches than ever to pick up the slack. The four-time Pro Bowler has never topped 275 touches in a season so this would be unprecedented. That may have to change in 2021 if the Saints want to be successful. Head coach Sean Payton has used the former third-rounder judiciously in his four pro seasons. Will he be tempted to increase Kamara’s workload in 2021?

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Alvin Kamara Touches Could Increase for New Orleans Saints

Kamara has always been something of a luxury for New Orleans, even as their most explosive player. Payton has not had to rely too heavily on the Tennessee alum with Drew Brees carefully orchestrating the passing game over the years. Brees has retired and neither Jameis Winston nor Taysom Hill inspires the same confidence. To make matters worse in the Bayou, Michael Thomas curiously opted for surgery in June, drawing the ire of Payton and General manager Mickey Loomis.

“It’s disappointing,” Payton said to reporters. “And we’ll work through it with the other players that are here. But the surgery took place, and obviously, we would’ve liked that to have happened earlier than later, and quite honestly it should have.”

Replacing the production of Thomas is going to be difficult for New Orleans. The team has reportedly signed former New England Patriot Chris Hogan to help in the passing game. That is asking a lot if they think Hogan, Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harris can all make leaps. Kamara may be able to ease the blow until their star receiver can return to the field. This may take a shift to a more run-heavy approach for Payton. With Kamara, Hill, and Latavius Murray, that may be the best option, with or without Thomas.

The Case for a Bigger Workload for Kamara

The former AP Offensive Rookie of the Year is electric with the ball in his hands. He has also been durable, appearing in 60 of 64 regular-season games in his career. The question is whether that availability would be compromised with more touches. It is a risk the team may have to take in 2021. Since joining the league in 2017, Kamara is second in total touchdowns among running backs. The recently turned 26-year-old is a nightmare for opposing defenses in the open field. Per Pro Football Focus, Kamara is first in the NFL since 2017 in yards after the catch (2,647) and missed tackles forced on receptions (79).

Getting him the ball more seems like a no-brainer. Kamara is not just a threat in the passing game either. In his four NFL seasons, he has run for 3,340 yards and 43 scores, averaging five yards per attempt. There is room to increase snaps for the do-it-all back. Kamara was on the field for 61.2% of the Saints offensive snaps in 2021, according to Football Outsiders. Only David Montgomery, Ezekiel Elliot, and Derrick Henry passed the 65% threshold last season but Payton may need to add Kamara to that list.

The Case Against More Work for Kamara

The obvious reason against increasing the workload is the greater risk for injury. New Orleans cannot afford to lose Kamara on top of the other issues on offense. His 270 touches in 2020 were seventh among running backs. Only four players exceeded 300 last year, but Kamara may be ready for more, as he explained to The Athletic, regarding his off-season workouts:

“It’s been a grind this year, honestly … trying to evolve, evolve, evolve every year. It’s like, I do so much and I’m moving and excelling and progressing in these movements and these exercises every day, every week and it only gets harder. It never gets easier. We’re always trying to find the next thing to do. He’s always trying to stump me. … He’s trying to get me to fail but it’s always in good faith and it means well. … That’s the goal, for it to translate. Everything that I’m doing is setting up for that season, that long haul. Once we get into Week, 13, 14, I’m still good. I’m hitting my second wind and I’m feeling good.”

With a definite downgrade at the quarterback position, their top receiver out, and a lack of obvious playmakers, Kamara is the key to any hope of the offense keeping up. For a team that has not worried much about that side of the ball in a long time, this is unsettling. The defense appears to be the strength of the team now but Kamara can keep the offense afloat. It will be a long season for the Saints if he does not.

 

 


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