The New Orleans Saints’ top two running backs, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, combined to become a historic tandem and made the offense the most balanced it had been in years.
2017 FINAL ROSTER: Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Trey Edmunds, Jonathan Williams, Zach Line
INJURED RESERVE: Daniel Lasco, John Kuhn
2018 FREE AGENTS: Zach Line (unrestricted), John Kuhn (unrestricted)
POSITION REVIEW: RUNNING BACKS
The Saints’ efforts to create a better run game were obvious throughout the 2017 offseason.
Future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson signed in April, and less than a week later, the team drafted Kamara in the third round. The Saints spent key assets to improve the offensive line, too, like giving their top free-agent deal to guard Larry Warford and drafting tackle Ryan Ramczyk in the first round.
A better rushing attack would, in theory, create a more balanced offense after a handful of years in which quarterback Drew Brees had to pass, pass and pass some more. An improved run game would help the defense, too, as a slower-paced offense gives players on the bench more time to prepare for their next series.
The plan was clear, but few could’ve predicted the results being as incredible as they were. Ingram, at age 28, turned in the best of his seven NFL seasons, setting new career highs with 1,124 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns to rank in the top five in both categories. Kamara, the rookie, added 728 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and led the NFL with a 6.1-yard average per carry.
And that’s just what the tandem managed as rushers. Adding in what Ingram and Kamara did as receivers shows just how great the duo now known as “Boom and Zoom” became in 2017 as both players became Pro Bowlers and Kamara made second-team All-Pro and won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The best explanation for the head-scratching Peterson addition was the Saints needed a backup after letting Tim Hightower leave in free agency, but Peterson had never been a reserve, which made the transition difficult.
Then, after four games, the Saints traded Peterson to the Cardinals, and Ingram called Kamara and said it was time for them to make history now that they’d have increased opportunities.
And that’s exactly what they did.
In addition to being the NFL’s most efficient rusher in 2017, Kamara had 81 catches for 826 yards and five more touchdowns as a receiver. His 7.7 yards per offensive touch is the highest in NFL history among players with at least 200 touches, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Ingram continued to produce as a receiver even with Kamara around, too, as he had 58 catches for 416 yards.
Together, Ingram and Kamara became the first pair of running backs to exceed 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a season. Even before the end of the year, they were the only teammates to each have 1,300-plus scrimmage yards and 10-plus touchdowns. Kamara added a 106-yard kickoff return touchdown, too.
Assisting Kamara and Ingram in the backfield for much…