The Saints offense must sink or swim if Alvin Kamara can’t play this week

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A concerning storyline picking up momentum this week is the absence of New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who missed the team’s first two practices with a mild knee strain suffered in last week’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. While Kamara could return to practice on Friday or even play on Sunday without having taken a practice rep, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Saints will be without their best player against the Tennessee Titans.

Kamara has played 78.4% of their snaps on offense this season, well above his previous career high (69% in 2019), though that number has dropped to 67% and 68% in the Saints’ last two games after Mark Ingram came home in a trade with the Houston Texans. And it makes sense to decrease his workload. Kamara has never been someone asked to handle 30 or 40 touches in a single game.

Having a competent No. 2 in Ingram should help the Saints offense keep it moving if Kamara can’t go, but there’s no one who can really replace what he brings to the offense. Kamara has accounted for 59.8% of the team’s rushing attempts and 19.6% of their targets, as well as 32.2% of their total scrimmage yards. He’s accounted for 7 of their 24 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns (29.1%).

So those are big shoes to fill. The good news is that Ingram can do enough of those things — running behind a strong offensive line, catching dump-off passes underneath the coverage, and things that aren’t reflected in the box score like helping out in pass protection by picking up blitzing defenders — to support the Saints’ quarterback, whoever that ends up being.

But Kamara has qualities few of his teammates can substitute: his elusive movements in the open field, his ability to line up as a receiver and run real routes against defensive backs, and his comprehensive understanding of the playbook. He’s a rare talent and the offense will miss him.

Let’s round out with a positive, though. If Kamara can’t play on Sunday it won’t catch the Saints by surprise. Sean Payton has had all week to plan without his best player. Even if their offense is running thin at the skills positions, Payton remains one of the game’s most creative play designers. If anyone can navigate a game against a tough opponent without Kamara, it’s him. Keep an eye out for status updates on Friday’s final injury report.

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Alvin Kamara still sidelined on updated Saints injury report vs. Titans