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Why the New Orleans Saints Could Win it All, Part II: Running Backs

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You-know-who is the back-up to Mark Ingram...

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

To see previous Parts, click below:

Part I: Offensive Line

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In 2016, the New Orleans Saints’ Running Backs had a spectacular year as a group. Mark Ingram finished with a career-high 1,043 rushing yards for the season, as the first Saints Running Back to pass the 1,000-yard mark since Deuce McAllister. His primary back-up, Tim Hightower, tacked on another 748 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns. The two other Running Backs on the Saints roster, Travaris Cadet and Daniel Lasco, contributed minimally to the Saints offense in 2016 (with both seeing time on Special Teams). Overall, the Saints finished with the 15th most rushing yards per game in 2016.

Tim Hightower has signed with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason to act as the back-up for 49ers star RB Carlos Hyde. Mark Ingram is under contract through the 2018 season, and Lasco and Cadet should both be back as primary Special Teamers. The Saints drafted a RB in the 2017 NFL Draft in Alvin Kamara out of Tennessee in the 3rd Round. To back up Mark Ingram, the Saints brought in future Hall of Famer “All-Day” Adrian Peterson on a two-year, incentive-laden deal. To be clear, Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints organization has emphasized that Peterson’s role with the Saints is just that - to back up Mark Ingram, and not to be the every down starter.

So here’s why they’re better in 2017:

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fairly simple to understand why the Saints Running Back corps should be better in 2017: just look at the moving parts. The Saints still have Mark Ingram, who is only 27 years old and still in his NFL-prime. The Saints lost Tim Hightower, but the selection of Alvin Kamara in the 3rd Round should almost make that a wash. Kamara is an explosive back with the potential to be a full-time starter in the NFL. While he’ll be used primarily as a reserve player or in the event of injury, Kamara has a level of upside that 30-year-old Tim Hightower just didn’t have.

Oh, and that’s not even mentioning Adrian Peterson.

Whether you like the person or not, it’s impossible to ignore the resume. Peterson is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer and could still be a force for the New Orleans Saints. While Peterson has an injury history almost as lengthy as his list of NFL rushing accolades, in a bench role, he should stay fresh enough to play in all 16 games. No disrespect to Tim Hightower, but in 2017, the Saints shouldn’t feel much (if any) of a drop-off in the caliber of their rushing attack if or when Mark Ingram needs significant rest.

With Ingram, Peterson, and Kamara (plus Lasco in the event of emergency), the Saints should look to improve on their 15th ranked rushing game in 2017 and will do so keeping Travaris Cadet solely on the Special Teams unit.