Adrian Peterson May Find More Fuel in Superstar Tank with Move to the Saints

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 25, 2017

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson talks with reporters after NFL football practice in Eden Prairie, Minn., Wednesday, May 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig)
CRAIG LASSIG/Associated Press

In order to fully understand why so many in football now believe that Adrian Peterson's career is about to have a demonstrative resurgence in New Orleans, you first have to understand what the NFL thinks of Saints coach Sean Payton.

There is a belief among many coaches and team executives in the sport that Payton is the best play-caller in football today and one of the best to ever do it. He's seen by some coaches as an offensive genius in the mold of Bill Walsh or Joe Gibbs. Yes, that good.

So when Peterson agreed to join the Saints this week, as first reported by ESPN's Josina Anderson, there was a sense around the NFL that Payton could salvage Peterson's last days from devolving into an embarrassment.

In fact, it may be the opposite. It's thought by a variety of team officials that Peterson can, in some ways, become the explosive weapon he long was in Minnesota again.

That isn't what many front office executives and assistant coaches were saying recently, which led me to conclude Peterson was done.

But Peterson's move to the Saints has changed this line of thinking, convincing the same men who once declared Peterson an aged former star to tell me early Tuesday morning that only the Patriots or Saints made sense for him.

"Adrian Peterson is going to scare the league one more time," an NFC assistant coach said. "Sean will turn him back into the terror he once was."

One general manager put it even more succinctly: "This is the type of move that could put the Saints into the playoffs and beyond."

Are people overstating the importance of this move? That's possible. Some of these rosy outlooks could be the result of team executives and coaches remembering Peterson's glory days and forgetting that the last time we saw Peterson, he looked as if he'd lost his burst and was a totally different player.

And considering the Saints defense is still fairly putrid, there's plenty of room for debate about Peterson's impact.

But I do believe New Orleans is closer to getting back to the playoffs than many believe.

What's unquestionably true is this move pairs a former great with a brilliant head coach who gets the most out of his players. And that has led pro-Peterson people in the sport to believe the running back could be great again for a handful of reasons:

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images


1. The Payton Factor. Teams believe that Payton's offensive scheming will free Peterson more. One thing to remember about Payton's offense is that while it's produced one of the most prolific passing offenses in the history of the NFL, it also has produced solid running games.

Payton has overseen six different backs leading the Saints in rushing during the Drew Brees-Payton era. That's not an accident.

Payton tailors his offenses around players' skill sets, and many believe he'll do the same with Peterson. It's also believed Payton will improve two notorious deficiencies Peterson has: pass-catching and blocking.


2. The Brees Factor. Peterson has been one of the most explosive players of his generation despite never playing with a great quarterback. Well, that's going to change.

The fact Peterson is no longer the best player on his team is, as team officials see it, good for him. It takes all the pressure off. Brees is better, and prevents defenses from focusing on the running game, and that will allow Peterson to do what Peterson does.

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press


3. The Two-Back Factor. Peterson isn't the starter in New Orleans right now. The lead back is still Mark Ingram, a fact some assistant coaches around the league think will keep Peterson fresh and help re-energize the explosiveness that he appeared to lose.

As of now, it isn't clear what role Peterson will fill in New Orleans. Will he be a simple change-of-pace back? A goal-line back?

Coaches I have spoken with think that at some point early in the season, Peterson will be so effective that his play will force him onto the field, stealing more reps from Ingram than people now think. No matter what the Saints say publicly now, these sources feel, Peterson will emerge as almost a co-leader in the New Orleans backfield.

That's an amazing change regarding a 32-year-old star with two major knee surgeries who was widely considered done in football.

With a new coach and new teammates, however, Peterson's move to New Orleans just might work.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.   


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