There simply weren't enough touches to go around.
Attribute that to the emergence of rookie running back Alvin Kamara and to the continued standards maintained by incumbent Mark Ingram II, a 1,000-yard rusher last year. But for the New Orleans Saints, there simply was a dearth of opportunities at running back for Zach Line, Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday on a teleconference with local media.
Thus, the Saints on Tuesday traded Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional pick in next year's NFL draft.
Peterson had 27 carries for 81 yards in the Saints' first four games. Ingram leads the Saints with 170 yards on 42 carries, and has 15 catches for 125 yards, and Kamara has rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and has 20 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown.
"One of the challenges when you have the depth that we had is having enough touches for all these guys," Payton said. "Both Mark and Alvin have been playing well. I think Adrian had a good training camp and yet, in our league, you have free agency and then the NFL draft; unlike basketball, where it's the other way around. We drafted and ended up finding a good young prospect who's played well.
"I think this was a win-win. Adrian and I have talked a ton each week. We'll spend time just up here in the office talking about our system – just different things, his role. And our relationship, I would say, has been fantastic. It was an opportunity really where he was going to obviously get somewhere and be featured more, and I'm happy that that opportunity has come up and we were able to make a trade."
The Cardinals have had a gaping vacancy at running back since All-Pro David Johnson (293 carries for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns, and 80 catches for 879 yards and four scores last year) dislocated his wrist in the season opener.
"This was done just using common sense," Payton said. "We had a chance to get a draft pick next year, I know Arizona was short at this position, and there's a confidence level we have with how Mark and how Alvin are playing. In my discussions yesterday with (Cardinals general manager) Steve Keim, it was like, 'Hey, this guy still has it. And here's what he does well. We've seen it.'
"It's just a little crowded right now with the third back and obviously, you want depth at that positon. And we feel like we still have that, so we kind of go from there. But Adrian has been fantastic through the process. Even in yesterday's meeting, he and I just sat down and talked about it. We talked about good news/bad news, and I said, 'In a week, you're going back to London, staying at the same hotel for a week, practicing on the same practice fields.'
The Saints played Miami at Wembley Stadium in London on Oct. 1. The Cardinals will play the Rams there, at Twickenham Stadium, on Oct. 22.
"I think he's competing for opportunities to get first-wave touches and 20 carries," Payton said. "I think the opportunity and the timing is perfect because I think he's certainly going to get more of those at Arizona than he was getting here."
Peterson's departure should open an opportunity now for a couple of young backs – Trey Edmunds, an undrafted rookie who has been a core special team member in the first four games and who impressed as a runner in preseason, and Daniel Lasco, the Saint's seventh-round pick last year, who also showed standout flashes on special teams last year.
"We've got Lasco on the practice squad, who we have a lot of confidence in and like a lot," Payton said. "Some of these guys, people aren't as familiar with, but if I told you Trey Edmunds is someone we have high opinions or high regards for, it would be hard for you to look at that.
"So when you're talking about third (running back), it's hard to go into the game with four halfbacks on your active roster. But we've been carrying four because of the special teams play we're getting out of Edmunds. We feel comfortable with the depth at that position."
FULL SPEED AHEAD: It appears that this week officially will mark the game return of receiver Drew Brees. Snead was reinstated for the Miami game, after missing the first three games due to league suspension, but an injured hamstring kept him sidelined. "He's recovered now," Payton said. "He was in that questionable mode in London, whether we could play or not and we went another week."
MAYBE A RETURN: Though right tackle Zach Strief has been placed on injured reserve, Payton said we may not have seen the last of him in a game this season. Strief injured his knee in the season opener against Minnesota, missed the rest of that game after the injury and then the next two, and played three quarters against the Dolphins before being injured. However, he's a candidate to return, depending on his progress. "Fortunately now, we don't have to make that decision at the time we put a player on reserve/injured," Payton said. "So we see how rehab is going and then we can apply that tag when we see fit." In the meantime, the Saints have added offensive lineman John Greco to the active roster. Greco, a nine-year veteran who spent the previous six years with the Browns, has started 70 of 111 games he has played. "John Greco has got flexibility," Payton said. "We see him as a guard/center, he's played inside but I think he gives us depth. He has played and started games in our league, his workout was good."
LIONS REPORT: Payton provided a flurry of statistics that explain why Detroit, Sunday's opponent at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, has beaten the Saints three consecutive seasons. "In those three games, 63 points Saints, 87 Detroit," he said. "In those three games, we converted 35 percent on third down, they converted 46 percent. In those three games, we've rushed for 192, they've rushed for 294. In those three games, five turnovers Saints, three for the Lions. Quarterback hurries: New Orleans hurried their quarterback, or hit or sacked their quarterback, 27 times. Detroit hit, hurried or sacked Drew 42 times. Pick a category, it hasn't been good."