What to expect from Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram going forward

"I mean, he's a player where when he's not there, his energy is missed. So having him out there was just a battery pack," Alvin Kamara said of Mark Ingram's return to the Saints lineup in Week 5. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

METAIRIE, La. -- The bad news for Alvin Kamara's fantasy owners: He won't be averaging 23 touches per game anymore like he did over the first four weeks of this season, when fellow New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram was on suspension.

Kamara was a monster over those four weeks -- with a monster workload. He led the NFL with 611 yards from scrimmage and tied for the league lead with six touchdowns.

Then came Week 5, when Kamara had only six carries for 24 yards and three catches for 15 yards in a 43-19 rout of the Washington Redskins, while Ingram ran the ball 16 times for 53 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 20 yards.

But here's the good news: That game was kind of a fluke, since the Saints jumped to such a big lead so early -- allowing them to give Kamara a much-needed breather. And he should see a lot more than nine total touches per week going forward.

"Well, we wanted to run Mark and have that balance," Saints coach Sean Payton explained. "The one thing you definitely see, though, in the game is that there were a number of explosive plays, and so that just changes how the game unfolds.

"So Alvin's nine touches I think is a little bit of a byproduct of a [62]-yard scoring strike, another [35]-yard score. Those kind of change the pitch count, if you will."

The Saints were leading 33-13 just three minutes into the second half and 43-13 one minute into the fourth quarter. That allowed them to keep Kamara on ice for a change.

As Ingram joked after the game when they did their traditional joint interview together, "That boy was playing 70 plays a game!"

"[Kamara] was holding it down," Ingram said. "So I had to come help him out."

Kamara was all smiles, too, in that postgame interview.

"I mean, he's a player where when he's not there, his energy is missed. So having him out there was just a battery pack," Kamara said of Ingram. "You know, everybody missed him. And he missed being out there. So it was good to see him hit the ground running."

So what should we expect going forward?

Well, obviously last season is the blueprint/dream scenario for the Saints and for fantasy owners of both running backs.

They became the first duo in NFL history to both surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same backfield, while both scored at least 12 touchdowns and became the first pair of RBs to make the Pro Bowl together from the same team in 42 years.

Now, that particular level of production is almost certainly unsustainable. Kamara had to set an NFL record with 7.7 yards per offensive touch to reach 728 rushing yards on 120 carries and 826 receiving yards on 81 catches. And there is no way they can keep scoring at the same level as last season -- especially since the Saints also like using read-option quarterback Taysom Hill so much now in short-yardage situations.

But there is something to the idea of Kamara and Ingram feeding off of one another while keeping each other fresh and keeping defenses off balance, especially since they're doing it in one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses, led by Payton's creative offensive mind.

Of course, there will be some slow games for each back. Ingram will probably get more work when the Saints are running out the clock with a lead. Kamara will definitely get more work when the Saints have to throw the ball to catch up.

But one of the things that makes this duo so special is that each guy does a little bit of everything (running between the tackles, catching the ball, pass protection and short-yardage situations). So they both should see a healthy amount of opportunities in all games.

I expect Kamara to have the slight edge as the "1A" to Ingram's "1B" going forward -- much like what we saw over their final 10 games in 2017 when both backs were fully healthy, including the playoffs.

Ingram averaged 15.6 touches, 85.7 yards from scrimmage and scored eight offensive touchdowns over those 10 games. Kamara averaged 15.0 touches, 116.5 yards from scrimmage and scored 12 TDs.

Ingram does get a few more goal-line touchdown opportunities. After Adrian Peterson was traded in Week 6 last season, Ingram had seven carries inside the 2-yard line for five touchdown runs over the final 14 games, including the playoffs. Then he had three carries inside the 2 last week and scored on two of them.

However, Kamara did have three carries inside the 2-yard line with one touchdown during the first four weeks this season. And he had five such carries for two TDs after the Peterson trade in 2017.

And if you go back to the 5-yard line or 10-yard line, their touchdown opportunities become even more equally dispersed. After the Peterson trade last year, Ingram got 16 carries inside the 10-yard line with eight touchdown runs. Kamara had 14 carries and six TD runs. Kamara also has caught two TD passes inside the 10-yard line over the past two seasons, while Ingram has caught none.

So to sum up, Kamara probably won't lead the league in fantasy points going forward, as he did in ESPN leagues over the first four weeks of this season. But unless you're trading him for Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon or maybe a handful of other top players, you're probably still going to be in good shape with him as your RB1.