The New Orleans Saints planned to find a running back or two to make sure Alvin Kamara wouldn't have to handle all of the snaps himself with Mark Ingram out of action for the first four games.
That plan went out the window on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kamara took 52 snaps at the running back position in the season opener, the highest number of his career and far out-pacing newcomer Mike Gillislee (7) and Jonathan Williams (3), pulled up from the practice squad on Thursday. Kamara's previous high was 46 snaps against the Washington Redskins last season; he averaged 32.5 per game in the 14 games after the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson last season.
A couple of reasons might exist for Kamara's workload. For starters, Gillislee coughed up a costly fumble in the second quarter, the kind of mistake that puts a player on the bench. New Orleans was also forced to play from behind for most of the second half; with Ingram out of action, Kamara is clearly the best receiver at the position on the roster, and he'd take the two-minute drill snaps if Ingram was available anyway.
New Orleans might also have planned to give Kamara the lion's share of the work no matter what happened in Sunday's game.
With that, here's a few more observations from the Saints' snap counts on Sunday.
- Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. are clearly the top two receivers in the offense right now, both in snaps and in touches, and then it will come down to whether or not Austin Carr or Cameron Meredith is the slot receiver. Carr took 43 snaps on Sunday and caught two passes, while Meredith was inactive.
- This should come as no surprise, but Benjamin Watson is the clear bell cow at tight end. Watson took 51 snaps, far more than Josh Hill, and although that partly might be a byproduct of the pass-happy attack while the Saints played from behind, it's also likely that Watson's prowess keeps him on the field.
- New Orleans never used its jumbo package on Sunday. Like all observations on offense, the way the game went probably played a role.
- Tampa Bay kept Saints nose tackle Tyeler Davison on the field, and Davison's 52 snaps — second-most on the defensive line behind Cameron Jordan — far out-paced Sheldon Rankins (42) and David Onyemata (38). For reference, Rankins led Saints tackles in snaps by far last season with 812, while Onyemata and Davison played almost exactly the same amount of plays, a hair under 600.
- Demario Davis is the only constant in the linebacker rotation at this point. While both the Mike and the Will have stayed on the field for the vast majority of snaps the past two seasons, only Davis at the Will played all 66 snaps; the rest of the plays rotated among Alex Anzalone, Manti Te'o and A.J. Klein.
- Strong safety feels like another fluid position. Kurt Coleman took 37 snaps and Vonn Bell took 30. The presence of Patrick Robinson in the nickel appears to have almost entirely taken the three-safety look out of Sunday's game plan; based on snap counts, three safeties were on the field for just one snap.
- Special-teams leaders: Taysom Hill 29, Craig Robertson 29, A.J. Klein 21, Chris Banjo 20, Arthur Maulet 20, Justin Hardee 20, J.T. Gray 17, Mike Gillislee 16.
- Hill, who got a snap in the Wildcat on offense, is as core a special-teamer as can be, taking a remarkable 29 snaps. Klein's 21 snaps on special teams is a sign of his reduced role, too; he wasn't among the snaps leaders last season.
As always, The Advocate will track all of the Saints' snap counts on offense and defense — provided by the official NFL game book — each week. Here's a look at the season opener.
New Orleans Saints Snap Counts
|Ted Ginn Jr.||50||78.1%|