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Can the Saints Offense Succeed Without Alvin Kamara?

It's "next man up" yet again for New Orleans, who goes into this week's big matchup against Tennessee without star RB Alvin Kamara.  Let's look back at how the Saints have fared without Kamara in the past.
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New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara will sit out Week 10's game at the Tennessee Titans (7-2) with a knee injury. Last Sunday, he suffered the damage in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons in a losing effort.

Kamara will miss the fifth game in his five-year career, a third because of injury. He's appeared in 75 of 79 games, including playoffs. The 5-3 Saints have relied on Kamara's rare abilities, as the rest of their offense has struggled.

New Orleans ranks 28th in total offense and 31st in passing yardage. Quarterback Jameis Winston will miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL, while All-Pro WR Michael Thomas won't play a down in 2021 because of complications rehabbing his 2020 ankle injury.

Alvin Kamara leads the team with 530 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He’s also second in receiving with 310 yards, a team-high 32 receptions, and four receiving scores. Kamara has accounted for nearly 60% of the team’s rushing attempts and over 33% of their yardage production.

One of the league's most versatile offensive weapons, Kamara has just four career 100-yard rushing games. Oddly, the Saints have produced a 100-yard rusher in each of the games Kamara has missed. 

Here's how they fared without their top offensive weapon.

12/30/18 vs. Carolina Panthers (L = 14-33)

New Orleans Saints running back Dwayne Washington (27) runs against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Scott Clause/The Advertiser via USA TODAY NETWORK

New Orleans Saints running back Dwayne Washington (27) runs against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Scott Clause/The Advertiser via USA TODAY NETWORK

The Saints had clinched the conference's top seed, so Kamara and most of their starters rested in the regular-season finale against Carolina. It was the first game Kamara missed in his career.

Veteran RB Dwayne Washington led all rushers with 108 yards on just 11 carries. The Saints gained 184 yards on the ground but trailed 30-0, entering the fourth quarter of a meaningless regular-season finale.

10/20/19 at Chicago Bears (W = 36-25)

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) rushes the ball against the Chicago Bears. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) rushes the ball against the Chicago Bears. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Kamara suffered knee and ankle injuries during a week six win at Jacksonville in 2019. It would cause him to miss his first career game because of an injury that following week at Chicago.

Backup RB Latavius Murray stepped in the starting role and had a fabulous outing against the Bears. Murray led all rushers with 119 yards on 27 carries and added five receptions for 31 yards. He scored two touchdowns on the ground, the second giving the Saints a 36-10 lead on their way to an easy win.

10/27/19 vs. Arizona Cardinals (W = 31-9)

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

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Kamara's knee and ankle injuries against the Jaguars would hamper him the rest of the year. He’d miss a second consecutive game in week eight of the 2019 season against Arizona.

New Orleans took on Chicago without Kamara and injured QB Drew Brees, who Teddy Bridgewater replaced for five games in 2019. Brees was back to take on the Cardinals and was in Hall of Fame form, throwing for 373 yards and three scores.

Latavius Murray had another strong performance to support the passing game. He had 101 yards and a score on the ground with 19 carries, tops among all rushers. Murray also caught nine passes for 55 yards and another score as the Saints cruised to victory.

1/3/21 at Carolina Panthers (W = 33-7)

New Orleans Saints back Ty Montgomery (88) with the ball as Carolina cornerback Donte Jackson (26) defends. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints back Ty Montgomery (88) with the ball as Carolina cornerback Donte Jackson (26) defends. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Kamara had the most productive year of his career in 2020 and was on his way to the first 1,000-yard rushing campaign of his career. Unfortunately, he and the entire New Orleans backfield were sidelined for the season finale because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Saints were bailed out by an incredible defensive performance that included five forced turnovers and three sacks. Versatile WR/RB Ty Montgomery also stepped up to provide offensive production.

Montgomery saw little action as a reserve in 2020. He led all rushers with 18 rushes for 105 yards to end the season as the Saints picked up 156 yards on the ground.

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II (14) runs against Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II (14) runs against Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans ranks 10th in the league in rushing production this season, averaging 123 yards per game. The Saints will not only be without Kamara but also injured LT Terron Armstead.

James Hurst has proven to be an effective replacement for Armstead on the outside, while G Calvin Throckmorton will step in Hurst's spot at left guard.

Veteran RB Mark Ingram will get the start with Kamara sidelined. Ingram is still an effective rusher after eleven years in the league.

Montgomery is having a quiet year but has proven to be a productive threat. Look for the Saints to get utility weapon Taysom Hill more involved in the offense to take some pressure off QB Trevor Siemian.

New Orleans has been battered by injuries on the offensive side in 2021. Against a physical Tennessee Titans squad, they face a stiff challenge without their top offensive threat, a quarterback sidelined for the year, and their best offensive lineman. These Saints have proven they can overcome this sort of challenge in recent seasons. 

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