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For Saints to lean less on Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray needs big year

Kamara saw a return to form in 2020, but he needs to keep healthy

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have a strange roster makeup right now on offense. They have one proven receiver, a superstar running back leading a stable otherwise comprised of journeymen, a second-year tight end people expect to become a star overnight, and Taysom Hill. All of this is built around Jameis Winston, who is the very likely starter in the first season for the Saints in the post-Drew Brees era.

In order for this mish-mash of talent to work, the Saints are going to have to be creative offensively. While versatile players like Alvin Kamara allow for that type of creativity, he can’t take every snap at running back. That’s why Latavius Murray has to have a strong season if the Saints’ offense is to return to form this year.

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last season, Kamara accounted for approximately 28 percent of the Saints’ total yards from scrimmage (1,688). While impressive, that number is a bit high for comfort. Given that 2020 Kamara was a return to form after an injury-riddled 2019, the Saints needs him as healthy as possible for future runs.

Murray has been solid for the Saints in his time with them, but the clock is definitely ticking. 30 is often a death knell for running backs, and he’s on the wrong side of it. Murray had 656 yards for the Saints last season on 146 carries, nearly identical production to 2019, in which he had 637 yards on 146 carries.

While those are solid numbers for a running back No. 2, where it would be nice to see more out of him is in the passing game. In two seasons, Murray has 57 catches for 411 yards. That makes his presence in the Saints offense one-dimensional, which players in this system can rarely get away with.

If Murray can get up to around 40-50 catches this year, that would establish him as a receiving threat when he’s on the field. It would also make the offense the Saints run around him more effective when Kamara has a breather. Going between the tackles should always be Murray’s primary purpose, but to work in a Sean Payton offense you have to be able to do multiple things.

This isn’t proposing that the Saints force Murray into a role he doesn’t fit. Merely that his role expands a bit so that the Saints can get the most out of him and make Kamara more effective.

Make no mistake: The Saints are incredibly top-heavy when it comes to offensive playmakers. Right now it’s basically Michael Thomas, Kamara, and everyone else. Allowing Murray to start to do more would open things up for them offensively, while also giving him confidence as the long season wears on. He’s one of the stronger spell running backs in the league. The Saints just have to treat him like it.