The Saints are loaded with talent and we all know the big names on offence. However, when you look at the numbers, they are very reliant on two men – and it may explain their success without Drew Brees.
When you break it down, 65% of all the Saints yards this season have been down to Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Other receivers have had success when the Saints have taken off, most notably at home to the Texans & Buccaneers. However, even when other receivers have contributed, it has always been less than half of team production.
Between them, Kamara and Thomas are averaging 225 yards a game. That is a semi-functional offence in itself before you add everyone else.
Impact on scheme
Ultimately, opponents can’t double team both weapons. If you do double both, that leaves just four other players in coverage and that’s with only a three man rush. It’s near impossible to keep Kamara in the backfield and press cover him in the passing game and if you sell out to stop the run, Michael Thomas will beat you deep.
Kamara is averaging 4.6 yards a carry his season so it seems defences are getting the worst of all worlds. That’s with a backup, alright a good one, under centre for three and a half games. Kamara averages 116 all-purpose yards a game, 68 on the ground, so far this season. Meanwhile Michael Thomas has 108 yards receiving per game during 2019. They are simply unstoppable as a duo.
It’s when you look at the percentages of the offensive production that it shows how important Thomas and Kamara are. Both have contributed at least 20% of Saints’ yards each in every game this season, with Kamara offering up 61% of Saints yards v the Seahawks. That is almost unprecedented input from an individual.
Can Saints live without them?
What is becoming clear is that Drew Brees isn’t the key piece for the Saints. It has been a team effort on offence and defence. However, Kamara and Thomas clearly are the spark that ignites the Saints’ offensive engine.
The Saints have proved that they can win without Brees. Luckily, one of this duo’s many abilities is durability. Between them they have missed just two games in their combined five-plus seasons in the league. If they were to be without one of them, and it seems a bit of a shoot-marry-kill situation for Saints fans, which one would it be?
They are, in a way, inseparable. If you lose Thomas, teams can pack the box and limit Alvin Kamara. Without Kamara, teams could double Michael Thomas. Ultimately though, I think the versatility, using him as a rusher or a receiver, and the inability to bump Alvin Kamara at the line mean that he is the key piece for the Saints. Ultimately though, the Saints would struggle to live without either.
It would also be interesting to see if losing Malcolm Brown or Marshon Lattimore would have on the defence.
The Saints have proved over the last few weeks that they are one of the teams to beat in the NFC. They are currently sitting as second seed in the early stages of the season. Sean Payton has gained plaudits for how well the team has performed without Drew Brees, and the defence deserves a lot of credit, but Payton owes a lot to Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas too.
Image: USA Today