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Measuring Alvin Kamara’s explosiveness

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Kamara had himself a day against the stout Houston Texans defense.

NFL: Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Alvin Kamara is the spark plug that gets the Saints’ offense going. His ability as both a receiver and runner make him a matchup nightmare, regularly beating linebackers when they are tasked with covering him.

His ability to create explosive plays is also what makes him so dangerous. An explosive play is considered to be any run for more than 12 yards or any pass for more than 20 yards.

Against the Houston Texans, the Saints called Kamara’s number 20 times with 13 rushes for 97 yards and 7 receptions for 72 yards. He had three “explosive” plays that is good for a 15% explosive rate that went for an average of 32.3 yards per touch.

Here is a breakdown of how the team got him the ball throughout out the game.

A Kamara WK 1 touches

QUARTER TIME DOWN & DISTANCE PERSONNEL TYPE PLAY YARDS
QUARTER TIME DOWN & DISTANCE PERSONNEL TYPE PLAY YARDS
1 12:39 1&10 11 SHOTGUN SWING PASS 9
1 6:57 1&10 11 PISTOL OUTSIDE ZONE RUN 7
1 5:48 1&10 21 SINGLE BACK JET SWEEP * 1
2 14:05 2&10 11 SHOTGUN TRIPS RT WEAKSIDE OPTION ROUTE 6
2 12:22 1&10 11 SINGLE BACK INSIDE ZONE RUN 4
2 11:43 2&5 11 SHOTGUN ZONE READ 2
2 10:56 3&3 11 SHOTGUN TRIPS RT 3 YARD DART ROUTE 5
2 10:17 1&10 21 SINGLE BACK OUTSIDE ZONE RUN 1
2 1:23 2&10 11 SHOTGUN SCREEN PASS -7
3 13:47 2&9 11 SHOTGUN TRIPS RT HALF BACK OPTION ROUTE 41
3 8:20 1&10 11 SHOTGUN TRIPS RT CHECKDOWN 11
3 7:38 1&10 11 SINGLE BACK PLAY ACTION. FLAT ROUTE 7
3 4:10 2&3 13** SINGLE BACK INSIDE ZONE RUN 8
3 1:07 2&1 11 SINGLE BACK CRACK TOSS 28
4 10:41 1&20 11 SHOTGUN TRIPS LT DRAW PLAY 28
4 8:36 3&19 11 SHOTGUN DRAW PLAY 6
4 3:29 1&10 21 I-FORMATION DUO GAP RUN 2
4 1:57 1&10 13** I-FORMATION DUO GAP RUN 11
4 1:47 2&6 11 SINGLE BACK TOSS PLAY -5
4 1:41 3&11 11 SINGLE BACK OUTSIDE ZONE RUN 5
*=lined up as WR. ** =Taysom Hill as TE. Pass plays in bold

Kamara was stymied in the first half and was only able to put up 29 total yards, but exploded in the second half for 140 yards, with three explosive plays of more than 20 yards. The first such play was a 41 yard reception on an option route out of the backfield.

The Saints line up in shotgun with trips to the right and Kamara to Brees’ right. The Texans will play a cover-1 man coverage with an underneath defender. This leaves Kamara one-on-one with linebacker Zach Cunningham.

The point of the choice route vs man coverage is to use the defender’s leverage against him. If the defender has inside leverage, the route will break out towards the sideline. If the defender has outside leverage like in the play above, the route will break inside, either on a slant or quick in.

Jared Cook’s drag route forces the linebacker (#55) covering the underneath hole to cheat over, which leaves just enough space for Kamara’s slant to open up behind him where he makes the catch and run for 41 yards.

The next explosive play by Kamara came later in the third quarter on a run play where he was able to pick up 28 yards.

On a 2nd and 1 the Saints will line up in singleback in 11 personnel with three receivers bunched to the left. They call a toss crack-block run. A crack block is when a player lined up outside will block a defender in the box.

Brees will send Ted Ginn Jr. in a jet motion right at the snap. This motion forces the linebacker and corner to cheat inside, making it easier for the offensive line to pin the defense inside.

The crack block is executed by Michael Thomas on the outside linebacker (#58) which allows left tackle Terron Armstead (#72) to pull and lead block for Kamara on his way to a 28 yard gain.

The third explosive play was on a 1st and 20 where the Saints will call a draw play for Kamara. On this play he shows what makes him such a gifted runner: patience, vision, and contact balance.

Kamara’s ability to create big plays at such a high rate is why the team doesn’t need to increase his workload now that Mark Ingram is gone. For comparison to game one last season when Ingram was suspended, Kamara had 17 touches compared to the 20 against the Texans which is only slightly above what he averaged per game last season.

Although the offense boasts one of the best receivers in Michael Thomas and a top tight end in Jared Cook, this unit will continue to run through the most explosive player on the team.