The top running back of his generation is officially teaming up with a top-three signal caller of his generation. The Saints have agreed on a deal to bring Adrian Peterson to New Orleans, thus opening Drew Brees’ championship window as much as possible.
Four seasons have passed since AP’s magical 2,097-yard season in which he single-handedly carried the Vikings’ offense to the playoffs. Since then, AP has played in 34/64 regular season games. He has missed majority of the 2014 and 2016 seasons because of a suspension and injuries, respectively.
Last year, his play before a torn meniscus did not inspire confidence that AP would reign supreme for much longer. He gained only 72 yards on 37 carries in three games behind a suspect offensive line.
So, with Peterson healthy and in a new environment, how big will his role be with the Saints in 2017?
AP’s flaws are well known at this point in his career and are being written about in every article about him this offseason. He can’t pass block, can’t run out of the shotgun, and injuries are a concern. He’s also reached an age (32) that has not been friendly to running backs, historically.
But ideally, New Orleans must be in the top-three best situations out of any team for Peterson to be successful.
Luckily for the Saints, they already employ a no. 1 running back in Mark Ingram. They won’t need to ask AP to carry this team like many Vikings teams did in the past.
Tim Hightower has been the primary backup to Ingram the past year-and-a-half, gaining 923 rushing yards, 329 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns in 24 games. That, to me, inspires confidence that AP can excel in a backup role to Ingram. More-so than the recent projects with Hightower and C.J. Spiller’s careers. (Although I still to this day love that game-winning 80-yard touchdown from Spiller in OT)
Along with serving as a backup to a great running back, AP will also have the luxury of running behind fullback John Kuhn. Kuhn has been one of the better fullbacks of the last decade, and the Saints are one of the few teams that still employ the position. Peterson excels having a fullback to follow.
The Saints have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, too. If AP can’t succeed running the ball this season, it won’t be because the blocking failed him.
That puts pressure on Sean Payton to get creative with the use of AP, Ingram, and Kuhn together. Payton and Brees’ offenses have consistently been one of the more dynamic attacks in the NFL year after year. He will find a way to get the production out of Peterson that Spiller could not deliver.
The departure of Brandin Cooks via trade with New England should not have any effect on the running game. Even without Cooks’ home-run threat on the outside, teams will not be able to stack the box with any more comfort knowing that Brees is throwing the ball.
New Orleans also owns the 11th and 32nd picks in the first round of this Thursday’s draft. They have the ammunition to acquire a top wide receiver prospect. Although, they might not have to, considering Brees’ ability to produce no matter who is receiving his passes. They may choose to upgrade their consistently bad defense, instead.
Peterson should fit in comfortably with this offense for the next two seasons. He will be carrying a massive chip on his shoulder for being cut and passed over by many teams.