By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It took only one game for Adrian Peterson to prove he doesn’t understand his own team.
The newest Saints running back played just nine total snaps on Monday against his former team in Minnesota. He didn’t exactly make the most of them, rushing for all of 18 yards on six carries. Drew Brees targeted him once in the passing game, but the pair couldn’t make the connection.
Nine snaps does feel like a low number for the four-time First Team All-Pro, but it’s hardly a surprise to anyone who’s followed the Saints under head coach Sean Payton. Apparently, Peterson didn’t see his light workload coming – and he’s already making thinly veiled gripes about it.
Speaking to the New Orleans Advocate, Peterson said that the media and general public “overdramatized” his apparent sideline confrontation with Payton during the Saints’ 29-19 loss to the Vikings. That may be the case, but he showed his true feelings on his usage when talking about his snap count compared to that of Mark Ingram and rookie running back Alvin Kamara.
“I didn’t sign up for nine snaps, though, but unfortunately that’s the way the game played out,” said Peterson. “In my mind, personally, I knew it was going to take some adjusting. You know, me and Mark played in the last preseason game, [Kamara] didn’t even play that game. So with all three of us being out there, I knew it would take a game or so to kind of get adjusted.”
“Get adjusted” = “Give me the ball more”.
It’s unclear exactly what Peterson, a 32-year-old back who signed a two-year deal with just $3.5 million guaranteed, was expecting here. First and foremost, Payton’s Saints have always been a pass-first offense. Since 2006, they’ve made about 40.1 pass attempts per game, compared to 25.6 rushes. They weren’t suddenly going to become a running team, certainly not when they were losing by multiple scores to the Vikings.
Furthermore, Payton has pretty much never handed the ball to a single “bell cow” running back, preferring something closer to a committee approach. Even Ingram, whom the Saints drafted in the first round, has averaged 18 combined rushes and targets per game since 2014. Last season, his rush attempts were as high as 20 and as low as three.
It’s hard to believe that Payton told Peterson he’d be the featured back, because that’s not his history. The coach’s running back usage, much like Bill Belichick, is often game plan-specific and game flow-dependent. He was never going to center his offensive scheme around Peterson. If that’s what the former Viking thought was going to happen, well, then he didn’t do his homework.
Obviously, Peterson has to still have some of his usually game-breaking talent left in him, or else he probably wouldn’t even have a job right now, considering his off-field problems and poor public image. But if he can’t improve upon how he “produced” against the Vikings and actually causes a real stink within the organization, it wouldn’t exactly kill the Saints to cut him loose and eat just $1.25 million of dead cap money.
It will be interesting to see how Peterson is used on Sunday against the Patriots, who allowed 185 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against the Chiefs in their season-opening loss. What’s certain is that he will be used however Payton sees fit, not however much he needs to satisfy his ego.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.