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Disaster Recovery Week 12: The (Other) Saints Come Marching In

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds.

This isn't a place to find out why you should have benched a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about benching, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

This season we'll be covering one dud per week. There will be two major qualifiers: the player must have performed well below expectations without an injury, and the player must be considered a must-start in most formats.

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Rankings System

I'll also be implementing a new panic meter ranking system this year. It goes as follows:

  1. This week was a fluke. Don't panic!
  2. I still have full faith in this player, but there are some red flags. Be cautiously optimistic moving forward.
  3. There are genuine concerns here. Consider selling on name value, but don't panic too much unless you receive an offer you can't refuse.
  4. This player will not be the player you expected him to be. Regardless, his value may be too low to trade, and his ceiling is going to be better than anything you can get in return. Panic, but hold tight.
  5. Absolutely abandon ship. We're not coming back from this.

This week we're going to take a bit of a different approach. The New Orleans Saints dominated the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving this week. They scored four touchdowns. None of them were scored by Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamaraor Mark IngramDoes this mean anything?


Red Zone Zeroes

Stat-lines for the "big three" in New Orleans last week:

  • Alvin Kamara: 14 rushes for 89 yards, one reception for nine yards
  • Mark Ingram: 11 rushes for 52 yards, two receptions for 14 yards
  • Michael Thomas: four receptions for 38 yards on six targets

New Kids on the Block

Drew Brees tossed four touchdowns against Atlanta on Thanksgiving night. They were caught by wide receivers Austin Carr (no relation to Austin Carr), Keith Kirkwood, and Tommylee Lewis, as well as tight end Dan Arnold.

Ever heard of any of these guys? Combined, the foursome had 248 yards and zero touchdowns going into Sunday. The trio of Kamara, Ingram, and Thomas had 28 of the team's 40 offensive touchdowns before this week.

Unknowns on the Rise?

Will the new foursome of undrafted touchdown scorers become factors in the offense moving forward?

The simple answer is no. The longer answer is still probably no. The reason for the uptick on snaps and usage for the three receivers was the absence of rising rookie Tre'Quan Smith, who had 10 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown before missing this week's game with a foot injury. He'll get his snaps and target shares when he's back on the field.

Out of the three touchdown-vulturing receivers, Kirkwood is by far the most interesting. He was signed just three weeks ago after Dez Bryant's unfortunate one practice in New Orleans. He's played on 44% of snaps since joining the team and is averaging just under 28 yards per game in his three appearances. It isn't much, but he's had a clear role in the passing attack and scoring his first touchdown, albeit a small one. Carr has been active all season and failed to contribute much, while Lewis's touchdown was literally his first catch of the season.

As for Arnold, he's been splitting the backup tight end role along with Josh Hill and is still firmly behind Benjamin Watson on the depth chart. He isn't going to add a new wrinkle into this Saints offense. He's been here all year.


Any Reason to Panic?

Since we're looking into three different players, let's take a look at the panic meter for each of them. We'll go from low to high.

Michael Thomas

It was a strange time for Thomas to have a bad game. He was going against an Atlanta passing defense that has been torched this season. His main matchup was Robert Alford, who was responsible for giving up 230 yards against the Giants a few weeks ago. The Saints next best receiver was out with an injury.

So why did Thomas, an elite WR1, come up with his worst game of the season in a dream matchup?

Maybe Thomas isn't an elite player after all? Maybe he just benefits from a historically good offensive system with one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL? Maybe the Saints just produce quality situations, and the players aren't responsible for making the most of these situations. I mean seriously, how good were guys like Willie Snead and Jimmy Graham really? Reggie Bush? Darren Sproles? Brandin Cooks? System players! Could this be the end of Michael Thomas as we know it?

Nope. We're not doing that. Ever. This was simply just a fluke and Thomas is one of the best young players in the league. Bad games happen. Panic Meter: 0/5

Alvin Kamara

Kamara really only had a "bad" game by Alvin Kamara's standards. 98 total yards isn't exactly something to scoff at. Kamara has scored in seven of eleven games this year. His only true dud of the year was the Mark Ingram tune-up game in Week 5. Outside of that, he hasn't had less than 75 yards in a game this year. Kamara remains an elite RB1, and we shouldn't think twice about it.

We can be slightly, and I mean slightly, concerned about his lack of targets in the past two games. Kamara had literally never been targeted just once in a game until last week. It's now happened two weeks in a row. Part of this can be blamed on general game flow, as Brees has thrown less than 10 passes in the second half in each of the last two games. But it's not like the Saints having second-half out teams is going to stop. They'll be favored in every game for the rest of the season. Kamara is also one of two players on the team to have over thirty catches this year. He should be fine. But this is certainly something to keep an eye on next week. Panic Meter 1.5/5

Mark Ingram

Is Mark Ingram touchdown-dependent?

Ingram's had under 100 total yards in five of his seven games this year. He's had under 75 yards in four of these. He was not as much of a factor in the passing game last year. Even with Kamara being the team's main passing down back, Ingram was able to notch at least four targets in 12 of his 16 games last year. He's yet to have four targets in a game this season.

Last season, Ingram averaged 69.5 total yards per game in games that he didn't find the end zone. He's down to 59 this year. He's averaging around 113 yards per game this year in games that he does score. His overall yards per game is down 18 from last year.

Ingram isn't completely touchdown-dependent, but he rarely has a great fantasy performance in games he doesn't score a touchdown in. His yardage dips from last year to this are a bit concerning. And while last year felt like a genuine split backfield, it's starting to feel like Kamara is the top-dog now.

There's no reason to bench Ingram unless you've got a stacked squad. His floor is solid, and he still finds the end zone a good amount. But 2017 Mark Ingram isn't here anymore. He's not on the RB1 radar. Panic Meter: 3/5


What To Watch For

The most important thing to look out for his how Alvin Kamara fares in the passing game moving forward. Should he see another one-target game, we may need to temper our playoff expectations just a bit. Other than that, just be hopeful to see the trio return to form next week.

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