It’s been a rough year for Alvin Kamara. The New Orleans Saints running back was sidelined by a rib injury early in the 2022 season, and he just tied his career-high with 4 fumbles in a single season after turning the ball over twice against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. And he’s only scored 3 touchdowns all season, which is almost baffling.
Especially when you consider that Kamara entered the season needing 5 scores to claim Marquese Colston’s record for the most touchdowns scored in franchise history. It’s unlike him. Kamara only has one other season with multiple fumbles, and he’s averaged 13.6 touchdowns per year as a runner, receiver, and kick returner going into the 2022 campaign.
So while it’s easy to focus on the turnovers, the larger issue here is the Saints not getting more out of Kamara, specifically in the red zone. This season he’s totaled 13 carries and 8 targets inside the opponent’s 20-yard line — an average of 2.1 scoring opportunities per game. Going into this season, Kamara had 180 carries and 75 targets in the red zone for an average of 3.5 tries per game. That’s a small difference, but it adds up.
What gives? Part of the problem lies at quarterback. Both Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston have had trouble finding Kamara in the flats at times, though Kamara is averaging more targets per game with Dalton (6.8) than Winston (3.4, including their games together in 2021). Dalton also just missed a walk-in touchdown to Kamara against the 49ers. The point is that both passers haven’t gotten the most out of one of the NFL’s proven playmakers.
But it also comes down to playcalling. Pete Carmichael Jr. has been on the headset all season and he hasn’t done a good enough job getting Kamara involved — specifically in the red zone. And the plays Kamara is getting show a worrying lack of creativity. Just 25.9% of his carries are going outside the tackles, compared to 31.1% of his rushing attempts from 2019 to 2021. Carmichael is asking him to run between the tackles and into the teeth of the defense over and over again, and it isn’t working.
Hopefully things turn around over these final five games. If this is all the production the Saints are going to get out of Kamara, it doesn’t justify his contract value. They owe it to themselves to get the most out of that investment, and the best path forward is to go back and key in on what Kamara has done well throughout his career. He may not be as effective without Drew Brees, but he’s made enough plays with enough different quarterbacks over the years to where this scoring drought is inexcusable.
As for the fumbles: again, this is uncharacteristic for Kamara. It should stabilize over time. It’s not like he’s gotten lazy with his ball security or is mishandling his opportunities. These things happen, and taking the ball out of his hands isn’t the answer. No one knows how important protecting the football is better than Kamara, and he’s shown before that he’ll get it cleaned up. He and the Saints can’t afford not to.
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