SOPHOMORE JINX? Saints RB Alvin Kamara Looks to Repeat Last Year's Rookie Success in Year #2
In many aspects of popular culture and particularly in the sport of Pro Football, the term "sophomore jinx" refers to an instance in which a second — or "sophomore" — effort fails to live up to the standards of the first effort.
The phrase is commonly used to refer to the apathy of students (second year of high school, college or university), the performance of athletes (second season of play), singers/bands (second album), television shows (second seasons), and films and video games (sequels / prequels).
In the case of New Orleans Saints 2nd year star RB Alvin Kamara, it's something that he certainly will be hoping to avoid.
Kamara, the team's 3rd Round 2017 draft pick from the University of Tennessee, was named the 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year, and along with teammate and fellow rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore — who took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors — helped the Saints become only the 2nd team team ever in League history dating back nearly 100 years, to have two players claim the awards in the same year.
The only other team to do it was the 1967 Detroit Lions; who accomplished the feat with running back Mel Farr and cornerback Lem Barney.
Kamara emerged as one of the NFL's dynamic multi-purpose threats, and both he and teammate Mark Ingram became the first running back tandem to exceed 1,500 yards from scrimmage each in the same season.
Expectations for the franchise fortune-changing star will certainly be very high going into the upcoming 2018 NFL season, as he prepares to enter into Year 2 of his incredibly blossoming NFL career.
And while he might not achieve or accomplish the remarkable feats similar to those of which he did last year, he's definitely aware that the media and the team's fan-base will be scrutinizing his every single move while at the very same time: expecting him to repeat last year's success.
"I'm cool," Kamara told ESPN writer Mike Triplett in an interview last week during OTA's.
"I was just talking to somebody the other day [about how] I was watching my highlights for the first time like last week. So I keep moving forward, I'm always looking for what I can accomplish next.
"[That's] my mentality. Year 2, I'm trying to do more than I did in Year 1. So I'm just ready to play."
For Kamara, being ready to play will come with a somewhat different role this year than last, since Ingram will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season.
But while he'll be the team's "new" #1 RB to begin the season, the Saints aren't likely to have him shoulder the load all by himself.
It's the exact reason why Saints head coach Sean Payton said last week that it would be a "mistake" to give him an additional 15 more carries per game, adding: "That's not the direction we would expect to go. I don't think that is wise."
If one were to guess what type of coach-speak that Payton was implying, it would likely be that there's no need to "run the kid into the ground", and the team clearly plans to use the other RB's on the depth chart — namely young veterans Jonathan Williams and Trey Edmunds along with brand new rookie Boston Scott — to make sure that the burden isn't too great or overwhelming, or even worse: risking an injury.
Nevertheless, Kamara isn't shying away from whatever role that he's asked to fill.
"From the beginning, I've said, 'Whatever I have to do.' I trust Sean and I trust our coaches. So however it unfolds, we'll just handle it like that," said Kamara, who opened last season as the team's #3 RB behind Ingram and long-time veteran Adrian Peterson, who eventually was traded to Arizona and subsequently released.
When asked by Triplett and other reporters if he feels like he's ready for a bigger role in general, heading into Year 2; Kamara laughed and said, "We'll see. Whatever happens."
As a rookie last season, Kamara carried the ball 120 times for 728 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Additionally, he caught 81 passes for 826 yards, averaging 10.2 yards per reception.
And of his 14 total TD's, 8 of them were rushing TD's and 5 more came via the air (he also had a 106-yard kick return in the season finale against the Buccaneers).
Whether or not Kamara can repeat or even surpass last year's production is any one's guess; and however the Saints' opponents in those first 4 games (Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Atlanta, and the N.Y. Giants) choose to defend Kamara with Ingram out (by putting an extra safety or a speedy linebacker in the box to serve as a "spy" to stop him, for example), certainly could factor into the numbers that he eventually puts up in that lead RB role.
But however the Saints ultimately choose to compensate for Ingram's absence, you can bet that Kamara won't be one to shy away from the challenge.
If anything, he obviously seems ready to embrace it.