The New Orleans Saints' offensive backfield got a lot less crowded Tuesday because Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara uncrowded it.
It wasn't that the Saints no longer believed Zach Line had the necessary pop to be a factor at running back. It was that the 11-year veteran simply couldn't carve out enough space and carries from the extremely productive incumbent (Ingram) and the head-turning rookie (Kamara) to establish a rhythm in the Saints' offense.
The trade of Peterson to Arizona, in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, freed New Orleans of the complexity of finding reps for a trio of backs and sent Peterson to a team that is in more need of his services.
"When you think about the rhythm of a game and the amount of plays that you're trying to run, and your balance between run and pass – and even in our passing game, we look at that as an extension of the run game at times, the backs play a big role in that – I'd say that those guys have shown what they can do," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, referring to Ingram and Kamara. "In all situations, I think that they're two very complete backs.
"They can be in in any given situation, whether that's running between the tackles or outside the tackles, or catching balls out of the backfield, spreading them out, picking up protection – those guys can do it all."
As of Tuesday, they'll get more opportunities to exhibit those specific characteristics.
"It's just (that), a guy is gone so we've got to keep working and doing what we've been doing, getting better in practice and going out and competing hard in games and doing what we do," Ingram said.
"When you lose a running back, the numbers – as far as carries and things go – kind of defines itself a little bit more," Kamara said.
The duo, by most measures, already had defined the rotation. Entering Sunday's game against Detroit in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Ingram has a team-leading 170 yards on 42 carries, and has caught 15 passes for 125 yards. Kamara has 83 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and has caught 20 passes for 147 yards and a score. Peterson had rushed 27 times for 81 yards and caught two passes for four yards.
"I think it's all for the best, certainly for him," Brees said of Peterson. "It appears that he's going to get a great opportunity there. We basically had two feature backs, with Mark and Adrian, and that was before drafting Kamara and seeing the contributions that he's been able to have in the expanded role. There's only so many balls to go around and obviously, I think there was just an odd man out and it seemed to be Adrian.
"I really appreciate the time with him. I felt like he was a great teammate, really loved his work ethic. The time we were able to spend throughout the offseason and through training camp and even into the first few weeks – I know, obviously, it was frustrating for him not to be able to get the reps that he was accustomed to getting and I think what he had hoped for and planned for. But, again, I think this is all for the better. It allows us to move forward, it allows him to move forward with another opportunity where it looks like he's going to get a significant amount of time."
Said Ingram: "I'm happy for him. I know he's been wanting those carries and those snaps. I feel like he'll get a great opportunity in Arizona. I'm happy for him. He'll get to go out there and prove to everybody what he wants to prove to them, that he still can do this and that he still has a lot of juice in the tank."
Also for Ingram, it was further substantiation of his value to the Saints. He's coming off his career-best season – 1,043 yards and six touchdowns on 205 carries, and 309 yards and four touchdowns on 46 receptions in 2016.
He has shared carries in each of his seven NFL seasons, but has led the Saints in rushing attempts and yards in each of the last three years, and four of the past five.
"It's just how I was brought up," Ingram said. "I'm always going to compete, never shy away from competition, never shy away from anything. No matter who is here or wherever I'm at, I'm always going to compete. I'm going to fight and put my best foot forward.
"He's a great player, he still has a lot of juice in the tank. And I'm hoping that he goes and proves it in Arizona. But it just doesn't matter to me. Whoever it is, wherever I'm at, I'm always going to compete."