As a rookie player in the National Football League and especially with the Saints, earning the respect of veteran players and members of the coaching staff particularly during the early portion of their first-ever NFL Training Camp, can often be a long and drawn-out process that evolves over time.
So perhaps it came as a bit of a surprise yesterday when Saints head coach Sean Payton expressed some intimate thoughts about rookie RB Alvin Kamara that he doesn't often willingly share with the media that covers the team.
🚨SPOILER ALERT:🚨 Alvin Kamara is a baller. Aspects of his game remind Saints head coach Sean Payton of Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. 👀👀👀 pic.twitter.com/CaJ18OrgT1
— Marc Whiteman (@MarcWhiteman) July 31, 2017
In a his daily post-practice press conference with reporters yesterday, Payton was asked if he sees any similarities between the team's running back / "scat back" and former Colts and Rams Hall of Fame RB (and New Orleans native) Marshall Faulk, who was present yesterday at Saints Training Camp while covering the team as part of his 32-team summer tour for the NFL Network.
“There’s some traits that Kamara has that remind me – in regards to his intelligence, his ability to run routes,” said Payton. “[Faulk] was as good as there ever was in that element of it … one of the smarter players I ever coached.”
If anybody knows the "signs of greatness", it's definitely Sean Payton.
That's because long before his now decade-plus long tenure as the Saints head coach, Payton served at one time as the RB coach at San Diego State University (a.k.a. "The Love Bugs" as they were known at that time, for their all-black uniforms with red helmets) during Faulk’s time there in the early 1990's --- specifically during Faulk's back-to-back seasons of 1992 and 1993 when he finished in the Top 5 of the Heisman Trophy voting.
For the 22-year-old Kamara, who was taken by the Saints in the 3rd round of this year’s 2017 NFL Draft (#67 overall pick, it's definitely some note-worthy praise of the highest order. Being compared to Faulk -- who was a 7-time All-and former NFL MVP with the-then St. Louis Rams in 2000, might be the biggest compliment that the talented rookie out of the University of Tennessee has gotten yet.
However, Saints fans are only hoping that the dynamic youngster will remind them of the more recently famous players who held down the role that Kamara is now taking over: the "scat back" spot in the team's offensive scheme, formerly held down by NFL veteran RB's Reggie Bush (who's currently still a free agent) and Darren Sproles (now with the Eagles).
As it turns out, Payton wasn't the only handing out praise to the sensational rookie.
Kamara's new teammate, 4-time All-Pro and future Hall-of-Fame RB Adrian Peterson, was asked during that very same post-practice press conference about Kamara's talents after Payton's comments; and offered up this assessment of Kamara’s traits and talents that he's found impressive thus far after 5 days worth of Saints Training Camp.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 30, 2017
“He has a lot of talent – so much talent,” Peterson said. “Really quick feet, great patience, great vision – all three of those things he’s shown that’s really impressed me.”
Peterson should be impressed.
Kamara has been displaying his obvious talent throughout the first 4 practices of Camp; and yesterday he had what observers on hand considered the best run of the team's 2nd practice thus far in pads.
It occurred during the 11-on-11 portion of practice on a play where he took a hand-off and then quickly dashed his way through an opening in between the right tackle and right guard at the line of scrimmage, and then used his shiftiness that left more than one defender grasping at air --- which in turn then drew an audible response of overwhelming joy from the "packed house" full of bleachers of Saints fans who were watching on in attendance.
Perhaps even more impressive than that was the fact that New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill noted yesterday after practice that one of the things which will determine if Kamara takes over the "scat back" role completely from incumbent starter Travaris Cadet, is his ability to completely learn and digest the offense.
Underhill observed that one of the big things for Kamara taking over the "scat back" role is to see if he can handle being split out in empty sets in the hurry-up offense. Kamara had a few plays yesterday where he was split out just like a wide receiver --- which Underhill says was a good sign.
For Kamara, it's further evidence of the faith that the coaching staff already has early on for his capabilities; and the praise from both Payton and Peterson yesterday only serve as a testament to that fact.
As of this moment only 4 practices into Camp, rookie Alvin Kamara is showing "signs of greatness" --- and that bodes well for both his and the Saints' future, in the months and years still to come......