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Barry Hirstius

Saints Rookie RB Kamara Wastes No Time Taking “Scat Back” Role

The New Orleans Saints opened their 3-day long 2017 Rookie Mini-Camp yesterday, and although the workout / practice session was closed to both the media and the general public, it became obvious thanks to the photos that the team posted on their own website's home page, that some of the rookies -- most notably the team's 7 draft picks -- were getting acclimated to their new surroundings and expected roles for the upcoming season.

One rookie in particular who appeared to be having a good time "getting his feet wet": RB Alvin Kamara, who is expected to become the team's designated 'scat back' in the Saints offensive scheme.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Now for those of you who may be a bit unfamiliar with football terminology, a "scat back" is a slang term that refers to a running back who is relied upon for his speed and quickness; and who displays acute and very noticeable athleticism over size and power (or sheer "brute strength").

In the Sean Payton / Saints offensive scheme specifically, the 'scat back' is a tailback / halfback who serves as more of a utility back (in other words, adept at catching the football as much as running it) than your "old school", traditional running back.

Whereas a traditional tailback would run straight downhill (or 'vertically') through offensive tackles, relying on his physical strength to break tackles, the 'scat back' is a much more versatile player; and he is often used in plays designed to target the outside boundaries or the edge along the sidelines.

Because the 'scat back' has more quickness than your traditional "power back", they can reach the outside edge and turn up the field considerably faster --- beating linemen, linebackers, and even secondary defenders with a burst of speed and turning a simple "dump off" from the QB into big plays for huge chunks of yardage, sometimes referred to as the YAC (yards after the catch).

Most importantly with direct correlation to the Sean Payton / Saints offensive scheme: the 'scat back', because of his well-documented quickness; is the primary target for passes from the quarterback --- specifically on "screen" passes and passes out in the flat.

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

The 'scat back' in the Saints offense is a huge threat in the 'open field', since they possess a unique blend of size and speed that can cause defenders to "whiff" on making tackles, which in turn can create bigger opportunities to make big plays.

Additionally, since the 'scat back' in the Saints offense is normally a bit smaller in physical size compared to the other players (especially offensive and defensive linemen), they can actually utilize their size to their advantage by virtually 'hiding' behind the team's O-Line --- which obviously then makes it much harder for defenses to figure out exactly where they're at during a given play.

Most 'scat backs' (though not all of them) also will usually have a specific role on special teams as a designated kickoff and punt returner, using their speed and "shiftiness" to gain big yards on returns in order to help give the offense good field position before they take over possession of the football.

Kamara is undoubtedly expected to fill the 'scat back' role in Payton's offense, once held by the likes of former Saints RB's Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles.

As I mentioned in a previous article a few weeks ago following the completion of the Draft: what the Saints have been noticeably lacking in recent seasons was the 'scat back' dimension to their running game in Sean Payton’s offensive scheme, and there's absolutely no question that Kamara will definitely provide that dimension.

Kamara had 1,294 rushing yards, 683 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns (including a punt return) in two seasons at Tennessee, but surprisingly he wasn’t used in an “every down” lead RB role, although he can be.

However it's quite evident that Payton traded up in the 3rd Round of last month's Draft with the 49ers (giving up their final 7th Round pick, plus a 2nd Round pick in 2018); to take Kamara so that he could return that facet of the Saints offensive attack, for this season and well beyond.

He did so particularly (as New Orleans Advocate Saints beat writer Nick Underhill noted right after the pick was made) in order to give New Orleans a player who can dictate match-ups in the passing game just as Bush and Sproles did, during their days when they too were in a Saints uniform.

The 21-year old Kamara (he turns 22 in July before the start of the season) is also a player who is more than capable of 'shouldering the load' purely as a runner, meaning that it essentially gives the Saints a potential "3-headed monster" in their running game with starter Mark Ingram and newly signed free agent veteran All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

But there isn't any doubt what Kamara was brought to New Orleans to do: become the newest player to serve in the old familiar role that over the years, has become a "bread and butter" staple of the Sean Payton / Saints offensive scheme --- the 'scat back'.

Now the only thing left to do for Saints fans is to just sit back, and enjoy the ride..........

Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist and Lead Analyst Barry Hirstius is a 50-year old semi-retired journalist and former New Orleans area sports editor and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Additionally, he is a frequent guest on a variety of Sports Talk Radio programs that cover the Saints. Barry is also a New Orleans native that dating all the way back to his childhood in the early 1970's, attended games at the old Tulane Stadium and grew up as a long-time Saints fan; following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.......

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