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John DeShazier: Saints rookie Alvin Kamara taking the NFL by storm

Running back leads the NFL in yards per carry

Where to begin?

The Olympic-worthy hurdle of a living, breathing, pain-inflict-minded human being – not just once, but twice, during a game?

The make-em-miss-in-a-phone-booth shiftiness that seems to defy logic, as he dances around with feet that perhaps the late Gregory Hines could've admired?

The double-take inducing balance whereby he weebles and wobbles, but never seems to fall down?

The sheer speed – an economical glide where his upper body seems to do little to no work at all, while he separates from defenders?

Really, if New Orleans Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara didn't exist, it'd be hard to make up a few handfuls of things we've seen him do. He has taken the NFL by quiet storm, a comparison that New Orleans' fans can appreciate and relate to, in that Kamara goes about his business in a matter-of-fact way, minus bluster or self-promotion, seeming to allow compliments to slide off his shoulders as easily as would-be tacklers slip off his shoulder pads.

"I don't really get into the hype," he said. "I just keep moving. I don't know how to explain it. It sounds like, 'Nah, you've probably got to feed into it.' But I really don't. I just live my life, like, regular."

Except there's nothing remotely regular about what Kamara is doing, which makes it impossible for the third-round pick to go unnoticed.

He leads the NFL in yards per carry at 7.1 (546 yards on 77 carries), and has been just as lethal as a receiver (548 yards on 54 receptions). He has scored a team-leading nine touchdowns (five rushing, four receiving), which is four short of the franchise record for a rookie, and is averaging 8.4 yards per touch.

He's the third rookie in NFL history to accumulate at least 500 yards from scrimmage, at least three rushing touchdowns and at least three receiving touchdowns in a calendar month; the other two, Gale Sayers and Charley Johnson, are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Kamara has cornered the market on the Pepsi Rookie of the Week Award: He has won it four times, including the last three weeks in a row (and he may run the string to four after running for 87 yards and a touchdown on five carries, and catching six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, against the Rams). And he also once has been named FedEx Ground Player of the Week (he also has been nominated for that honor again this week).

And he has more yards from scrimmage through 11 NFL games than he had in either of his two seasons at Tennessee.

"You go through the process and like any draft, if you re-drafted today, I'm sure his selection and round would be entirely different," Saints Coach Sean Payton said.

"Fortunately, we saw enough good things and had a vision for him and he's been able to adjust and adapt quickly to the speed of the game at this level. Really, he has proven himself to be good not only as a receiver coming out of the backfield, but in some of those runs you're seeing. There were a few times a year ago on film – you didn't get to see as many carries, because he was splitting time – but certainly, you saw his ball skills and we're fortunate to have him."

"I wouldn't say (it's) surprising," Kamara said. "I'll just say, like I said when I first came, whatever was going to be on my plate, I wanted to be able to digest it and digest as much as I could. That's what I'm trying to continue to do each week."

In the locker room, they call that "eating." In reality, Kamara is feasting in a way few rookies ever have through their first 11 games.

In the last eight games, especially, he has been a force. Five times in a game, he has totaled more than 100 combined yards rushing and receiving (another time, he had 96) and he has scored a touchdown in five straight games, the first time in franchise history a rookie has done so. Twice during that string, he has scored a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game.

Seven times in the eight games, he averaged at least five yards per carry and five times, he averaged at least 10 yards per reception.

All the while, he has been as elusive as a puff of smoke.

"It's really just, kind of trying to stay one step ahead," Kamara explained. "Diagnosing the angles guys are taking and what type of player they are. If I can beat this guy to the edge, I'm going to stall him out a little bit and then kick into full gear. If this guy dives at ankles, I'm going to look him off with my eyes and hopefully make him flip his hips and take advantage of that. There's some film study that goes into it, but a lot of it is instinctual."

Kamara said the chaos slows when he approaches.

"I was thinking about it the other day," he said, with a laugh. "I kind of go into 'Matrix' mode and I'm like, 'Him, him, him.' I've got these three guys and I'm just like – I don't know, I can't really explain it. There's a lot that goes on.

"It's not a full head of steam all the time. It's calculated, like, 'I'm going to slow down a little bit, make him think I'm cutting back, and then speed up.' There's a lot of down-shifting, up-shifting.

"That worked for me. So I just kept trying to develop that skill throughout my years of playing."

That has worked. But so, too, has this.

"His feet are always on the ground," quarterback Drew Brees said. "That's how you break tackles. Because you're using the ground as extra force to shed guys.

"Obviously, he's extremely athletic, he's extremely talented but there's a gift when – there's guys like that around the league, certain guys that you just say, 'What makes that guy so good,' or, so good run-after-the-catch or breaking tackles or what have you. A lot of times it's guys that keep their feet on the ground."

"Grounded" precisely is where Kamara is, and it's where he intends to stay despite stockpiling numbers, plays and awards that point to his uniqueness.

"I think at the beginning of the season it started off kind of slow, just with what was being dished out to me," he said. "But now, it's kind of like my role is evolving.

"They're seeing that I can basically process more and more, so it's like, 'OK, let's see if you can do this. Here, let's see if you can do this.' And I've just been moving and eating it and, 'What's next?' It's been a blessing. It's a lot of information but I feel like I'm doing pretty good."

See the best moments from Saints running back in the Week 9 match up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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