The Kamara Factor

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Usually I’m an even-keeled type of guy that you can find hanging between a glass half full and a glass half empty. So after the Saints shut out the Dolphins in London my first reaction was to be  cautiously optimistic, after all the sting of those first two games still linger a bit.

My mind tells me that the Saints defense isn’t as bad as those first two games and are probably not as good as the last two games.

My heart tells me – screw that we are going to the Superbowl!

I’m going to listen to my heart and enjoy this bye week because I haven’t felt this optimism since I was sitting in the stands at training camp. I think we as Saints fans deserve this ray of sunshine after the last three years of below par football, so soak it up and enjoy this break before the grind starts again.

This 2017 draft class really is shaping up to be one of the best under Sean Payton with the emergence of starters Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alex Anzalone and the electrifying  Alvin Kamara.

I could do this write up for any one of these rookies (in due time) but this week we are going to unwrap Sean Payton’s newest toy – Alvin Kamara.

I will be the first to admit that I rolled my eyes when the Saints traded away next years 2nd and 7th round picks to move up and pick Kamara in the 3rd round. I was wrong, I think it safe to say that Payton hit it out of the park with this pick, he’s been everything and more in what they envisioned when they pulled the trigger this past draft.

In this piece I’m going to take a look at the different concepts that the Saints use Kamara in and how it affects the offense and/or the opposing defense. Lets get started.

The Kamara Factor

Okay this one is as basic as it gets. This is just a little flair pass to Kamara in the flat, the key blocks here are Josh Hill (in the slot) and Brandon Coleman (at the top) taking his man deep and then sealing him. Kamara just uses his speed to get around the edge for a 16 yard gain. It’s very simple but very effective when you have a player that makes it look easy.

This next play the Saints catch the Panthers in a mismatch. They start with a trip receiver formation at the bottom with Michael Thomas up top by himself with a single back (Kamara)

Kamara is going to motion to the top making the corner back shift to him while the linebacker shifts to cover Thomas. At this point its a no-brainer who Drew Brees is going to, the end result was a quick 11 yard Thomas catch for a 1st down.

The assumption when the Saints drafted Kamara was that he would fill the role that Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles held with the Saints. They are using him in that X factor role but I just have a gut feeling that there’s a toughness about him that the other two lacked. That’s not to take away from Bush and Sproles but lets face it, Bush had a tendency to bounce it outside and Sproles was a small man, I can’t blame him for not wanting to get crushed by a linebacker.

In the small window that I have seen of Kamara, he’s not afraid to stick his nose in there and get dirty plus he can and does break tackles.

Below is just a simple up the middle run with some great blocking up front. But what I like about this run is the broken tackle on the linebacker. So what would have been a five or six yard gain turns into twelve.

This next play against the Patriots the Saints are going to spread the defense out sending out five with Kamara wide left. Brees sees he has single coverage with a safety (Patrick Chung) on Kamara.

Kamara runs a simple fade route and Brees lays out a perfect pass (back shoulderish) that’s almost impossible to defend. This is a really nice catch by Kamara that went for 38 yards.

This next play didn’t pan out but there’s no doubt that Payton will keep this close to the visor ready to fire up again – the wheel route to Kamara. The Safety really does a good job with his recognition and coverage. Brees takes one look at the coverage and is going the other way to Brandon Coleman, Brees’ reads are so fast, I have to say we are going to miss this when we have some green rookie taking snaps – enjoy him while you can. Anyways this route will be called again soon and if the defense doesn’t read it correctly Kamara has the jets to score at any place on the field.

This last one is the Kamara shuttle pass touchdown against Miami. This is Sean Payton at his best, he caught the Dolphins sleeping on Kamara while faking the jet sweep to Ginn Jr. Below is a pre-snap look.

A lot of people question Coby Fleener’s blocking ability and while it may not be as good as a Josh Hill or a Hooman, it’s a whole lot better than what Jimmy Graham provided.

Fleener is Going to get a good chip block on the defensive end and then fire off to the strong safety, getting just enough of both to seal Kamara’s lane.

Kamara’s speed and vision does the rest

I have a feeling that after just four games the Saints are just scratching the surface with Kamara. I think the Saints knew what his potential was but they didn’t expect him to blossom so soon and there’s no doubt in my mind that he was a major factor in the Adrian Peterson trade.

In today’s NFL there’s always the cat and mouse game between offensive and defensive coordinators – punch/counter punch.

When Reggie Bush was drafted out of USC he was already pegged and flagged before he took a snap with the Saints, defenses were putting spies on him whenever he walked on the field. You can bet after this bye week teams will do the same with Kamara and that’s not a bad thing at all. Payton loves to exploit mismatches and if they are going to have that safety, corner or linebacker follow his every move you better believe there’s a mismatch somewhere else. You punch we counter punch.

This week against Detroit look for a lot of Kamara, the Lions defense is vulnerable against the pass giving up on average 255.8 yards per game. I can’t wait to see what Payton dials up next for this young man and I know one thing, expect the unexpected because he is firmly entrenched in the game plan and you are going to see a dozen or more plays designed just for him to take advantage of a defense guessing wrong and to that I say as always….WHO DAT!

Who Dat, Baby!