With the New Orleans Saints only a few more days away from the start of their 2018 Training Camp, the Pre-Season predictions, prognostications and projections continue to roll in for the team and its players in advance of the upcoming season; and there's one that Saints fans might have missed from just a few days ago which (not surprisingly) involves 2nd year superstar RB Alvin Kamara.
The reigning 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year and the team's current #1 RB with fellow veteran Mark Ingram suspended for the first 4 games; was included on an impressive list that ranked the very best RB's in the NFL (click HERE to read) from #1 to #32, and Kamara was ranked 5th overall.
The list, composed and written by NFL.com Around the NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal (who's been notably complimentary of the Saints franchise in recent articles previously), has Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot ranked at #1, followed in order by Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell at #2, Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley at #3, and Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson at #4, all just ahead of Kamara.
Specifically, Rosenthal jokingly points out that the team's 3rd Round pick last season from the University of Tennessee had a "flow so sick that it makes you want to throw your food up".
Rosenthal than adds that Kamara is a much stronger player than most people think, and then compared his body-type and playing weight to former NFL star RB's Marshall Faulk and Priest Holmes back when they played.
Says Rosenthal in closing: "They just don't make running backs like Kamara any more. Matter of fact, they never made them like him before."
Now for those of you are simply just too lazy to click that Link above, here's exactly what Rosenthal says about Kamara, via the NFL.com website.
Rounding out the Top 10 were Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy at #6, Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman at #7, Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt at #8, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans native (and former LSU star) Leonard Fournette at #9, and lo and behold: Kamara's teammate and fellow Saints RB Mark Ingram at #10.
Of Ingram, Rosenthal notes that the 8th year Saints veteran RB would have probably had a much different NFL career, if he had been drafted by a team that favors a true primary running back. Then he adds that Ingram likely won't be ranked nearly as high once the season ends, since he'll be serving that 4-game suspension to start this season which could lead to a drop off in his overall production.
For Kamara — who will turn age 23 this coming Wednesday — it's even more validation for a young man who has rapidly ascended up the ranks of the League's truly elite star players.
But while he'll be the team's "new" #1 RB to begin the season, the Saints aren't likely to have him shoulder the load all by himself.
It's the exact reason why Saints head coach Sean Payton said to reporters during OTA's a few weeks back that it would be a "mistake" to give him an additional 15 more carries per game, adding: "That's not the direction we would expect to go. I don't think that is wise."
Certainly there's no need to "run the kid into the ground", and the team clearly plans to use the other RB's on the depth chart — namely young veterans Terrance West, Jonathan Williams, Shane Vereen, Trey Edmunds along with brand new rookie Boston Scott — to make sure that the burden isn't too great or overwhelming, or even worse: risking an injury.
Nevertheless, Kamara isn't shying away from whatever role that he's asked to fill; as he notably took the time to tell reporters back at that same post-practice press conference that Payton spoke at, during OTA's.
"From the beginning, I've said, 'Whatever I have to do.' I trust Sean and I trust our coaches. So however it unfolds, we'll just handle it like that," said Kamara, who opened last season as the team's #3 RB behind Ingram and long-time veteran Adrian Peterson, who eventually was traded to Arizona and subsequently released.
When asked by reporters if he feels like he's ready for a bigger role in general, heading into Year 2; Kamara laughed and said, "We'll see. Whatever happens."
As a rookie last season, Kamara carried the ball 120 times for 728 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Additionally, he caught 81 passes for 826 yards, averaging 10.2 yards per reception. And of his 14 total TD's, 8 of them were rushing TD's and 5 more came via the air (he also had a 106-yard kick return in the season finale against the Buccaneers).
Whether or not Kamara can repeat or even surpass last year's production is any one's guess; and however the Saints' opponents in those first 4 games (Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Atlanta, and the N.Y. Giants) choose to defend Kamara with Ingram out (by putting an extra safety or a speedy linebacker in the box to serve as a "spy" to stop him, for example), certainly could factor into the numbers that he eventually puts up in that lead RB role.
But however the Saints ultimately choose to compensate for Ingram's absence, you can bet that Kamara won't be one to shy away from the challenge.
As a matter of fact, he seems perfectly ready and willing to embrace it — and fully.