Adrian Peterson, arguably the most prolific running back in the NFL over the past decade, is now a New Orleans Saint, and the backup running back in a pass-first offense.
Peterson has never been known as a receiving threat out of the backfield, and his pass protection has been below average at best. Over his last three full seasons (2014 & 2016 were abbreviated due to suspension and injury), Peterson had a total of 99 catches and 2 receiving touchdowns. When compared to the younger, less experienced, Mark Ingram, who put up 125 receptions and 4 touchdowns over the same span, it is clear that Peterson has yet to master the skill.
The question that needs to be asked is, what would provoke a “once in a lifetime” runner, who lacks value in the passing game, to sign with a team that wants to stretch a defense and run only when the situation warrants? The answer: a chance to prolong a career and hoist a trophy that has eluded him for far too long, despite his individual success.
The Canonization Of Adrian Peterson
At the age of 32, Adrian Peterson falls into a category that most experts would call “past his prime”. He would politely disagree with this label, despite coming off his second major knee surgery less than a year ago.
The first hurdle in Peterson’s quest for a Super Bowl ring is understanding that 200 plus carries a season is no longer going to get him there, and that those days are long gone.
Second, he will need to understand that he is no longer the focal point of the offense, and his role is now going to be complimentary to Drew Brees and Mark Ingram.
Third, in order to accomplish the previous two items, his pride will need to be left in his locker, because if Adrian Peterson is to succeed, his ego will have no place in the Big Easy.
With Ingram already in place, and vaunted pass catching rookie, Alvin Kamara, chomping at the bit, Peterson will have to adapt to an offensive philosophy that has been a staple in New Orleans since the arrival of Brees in 2006.
The Saints see Peterson as an answer to the question that plagues every NFL front office, “How do we get back to a Super Bowl?” In 2009 the Saints ran the ball 468 times on the way to the Lombardi Trophy, a number they have failed to match since. Head coach, Sean Payton, sees an opportunity to have a healthy backfield for the length of the season; this starts with a capable group of running backs who can run or catch the ball when called upon.
This is a new world for one of the most gifted runners the NFL has ever seen. But, if approached with an open mind, Adrian Peterson may have a chance to make a run at the one thing he is missing, an NFL championship.