With another somewhat lackluster rushing performance in Week 2 for the New Orleans Saints, we now get a chance to look ahead to Week 3 and predict whether the RB room can bounce back or not. With an injury to Alvin Kamara slowing his usage rate in Week 1 and keeping him sidelined in Week 2, that somewhat set a cap as to how good the run game could be anyways. So, without further ado, let’s break down last week’s performance for the run game, and look ahead to what it could look like in Week 3.
Saints running attack vs Tampa Bay in Week 2
Simply put, the Saints - who are currently 2.5-point favorites over the Panthers according to DraftKings Sportsbook - were struggling to keep the run game going, despite an efficient game from lead back Mark Ingram. Obviously, the fumble will be the most notable part of his performance as it somewhat altered the course of the game, but he did have 10 rushes for 58 yards on the night which all in all is pretty solid. The Saints did rush 20 times on the night, except it was across 5 different players, and did not have a rushing touchdown in the game either.
There were three key factors as to why the Saints struggled to run the ball outside limited snaps on Sunday. Firstly, the offensive line struggled all night, which leads to the second point in that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an exceptionally strong front 7 both in pass rush and run stopping, and thirdly, Alvin Kamara was not in the game. A mix of bad OL and good DL spells trouble for a running game 9 out of 10 times, and this was not the exception, as Tampa was violent at the line of scrimmage and was able to get good push which made Ingram’s life much harder. Overall, just a disappointing night on the ground for New Orleans for sure.
What to expect from the run game against Carolina
Well, there is good, bad, and pretty neutral news for the Saints run game entering this week.
Good - High chance Alvin Kamara returns
At the end of the day, having an elusive playmaker out of the backfield is always a plus, and will obviously help the run game find its footing. While his return is not 100% set in stone, he was limited at practice this Wednesday and had a week to rest his rib ailments, which should give him a good shot at returning this week.
Bad - Alvin Kamara’s woes against Carolina in the past
Alvin returning is positive, without a shadow of a doubt. The downfall to this is that in his career he has never broken 100 rushing yards or 100 receiving yards in a game against the Panthers in 8 different attempts. His best game ever against Carolina on the ground was in 2020 where he rushed 14 times for 83 yards and had 8 receptions for another 65 or the previous matchup to that where he rushed for 2 touchdowns and 39 yards. But overall, his career effectiveness against the Panthers is somewhat mediocre all things considered.
Good - Likely high usage rate for running backs this game
Despite his struggles against Carolina, Alvin Kamara will likely be getting a bulk of run attempts this game and screens thrown his way. Why? Jameis Winston is injured and struggled with the deep pass last week as I mentioned in my passing game article. This will force the run game to be used more and be effective or at the bare minimum the passing game to reign in a bit.
Neutral - Carolina’s defense has been productive this year in some aspects
This can constitute as somewhat a good and a bad, as it splits into the secondary and the front 7. In terms of the secondary, Carolina has allowed the 3rd least amount of passing yards per game so far this season at 150 but has also allowed the 4th most rushing yards per game at 160 a game. Is this a product of who they have played? Absolutely, considering they played bad QBs and good RBs in Week’s 1 and 2 (Daniel Jones/Saquon Barkley & Jacoby Brissett/Nick Chubb).
If the Saints' offensive line can hold up slightly more off the edges for Alvin Kamara (provided he returns), he should be able to have a quality performance against a somewhat gashed Panthers run defense to this point. However, if the OL struggles as it did in Week 1 and somewhat in Week 2, then it could spell disaster for the run game.