By Nick Shook
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“I am all about winning, so if that’s what helps us win — I am all for it,” Ingram said on a conference call with media members on Tuesday, per the Saints‘ Twitter account. “Obviously (Peterson) is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I can learn a lot from him.”
Now comes the question of how Peterson will fit in a Saints offense that saw Ingram carry the load on the ground, but also included some carries for the since-departed Tim Hightower. Head coach Sean Payton offered some clarity, as Peterson looks to fit as the butter to Ingram’s toast.
“I think the role will be very clear and defined,” Payton told reporters after the Celebrity Shootout at the Zurich Classic on Tuesday. … “He’s someone that certainly will complement Mark. Those guys are different in some ways and yet we feel like we’ve added another quality player.”
It’s challenging to find a true complementary analogy for the Peterson/Ingram (or is it Ingram/Peterson?) pairing, because unlike most examples, the two are similar in style. They both are downhill, punishing runners with breakaway speed. One (Ingram) is younger than the other. One (Peterson) is taller than the other. One is coming off a knee injury that limited him to just three games, while the other is coming off his best season in his career, a campaign that saw him rack up 1,043 yards and six scores on 205 carries (5.1 yards per carry).
If Peterson is anywhere near the form he displayed two seasons ago (let’s consider 2016 a wash), the Saints are getting a substantial upgrade over Hightower, who was already more than serviceable in his backup role. And for those who are discrediting how often a between-the-tackles sledgehammer is used in New Orleans’ air-friendly offense, a quick flip through the stat book shows Hightower toted the rock 133 times. That’s no occasional bone thrown to a backup veteran.
Take a second and put yourself in a defender’s shoes. Ingram trots off, and the focus shifts to pass defense. The ground threat is lessened. But wait, there’s Adrian Peterson jogging into the huddle. It makes New Orleans’ offense that much more forceful, no matter the down and distance, and creates a one-two punch that the NFC South and the rest of the league really won’t want to deal with — if both can stay healthy.
As Around the NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal wrote on Monday, worrying about who the starter is between Ingram and Peterson misses the point. It’s not one over the other; it rarely has been in Payton’s rule in New Orleans. Instead, it is the sum of each individual’s contributions, which could amount to a lot in 2017.