Alvin Kamara was built for this.
Or, perhaps more specifically, Alvin Kamara has carefully, meticulously, methodically and painstakingly built himself for this.
"This," is this: 71 carries for 313 yards and three touchdowns, and 28 catches for 268 yards, over the last three games – a total of 99 touches for 581 yards, an average of 25 touches for 145 yards per game. It's the largest four-game workload of touches Kamara has consumed since he entered the NFL, the closest being a 91-touch spree in the first four games of 2018, when he totaled 611 yards and six touchdowns. The Saints (3-5) play the Ravens (5-3) on Monday night in the Caesars Superdome.
"My offseason is harder than the season," Kamara said Friday. "In the offseason, I prepare for hell. Even though the season is more controlled, I try to put my body through a lot of stress in the offseason.
"I get up at 4:30 in the morning, I'm working with (strength coach) Andreu Swasey, I'm working with (performance specialist) Hector (Maridiaga) down at Infinity Institute in Miami. I'm working with Dr. Reef (Sharif Tabbah, doctor of physical therapy and strength and conditioning specialist).
"I'm just doing all the things to prepare my body to go to war every week for 18, 19 weeks, 20 weeks. I'm ready for the load. I think I always said, I'm not worried about a load. I'll take as much as they give me."
"This," also, is this: Kamara, a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler who has scored 71 career touchdowns, just two shy of surpassing Marques Colston as the all-time franchise leader, remains the centerpiece of the Saints' offense when he's on the field.
And with Thursday's announcement that receiver Michael Thomas was placed on injured reserve and unlikely to return this season due to a toe injury that will require surgery, Kamara's fingerprints and presence loom even larger in an offensive system where he has been – and remains – the most knowledgeable and productive member.
"I don't think it puts any extra," Kamara said. "I think there's guys that are going to step up and do what they have to do to fill that void."
"It's been fun to play with him and just to get to work with him, because there's constant communication back there," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "Things that he sees, things that I see, just the communication that we've been able to have. When you can have that communication and it translate into the games into big plays, and things that he was able to do – last week (when Kamara had two receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, and totaled 158 yards on 27 touches in a 24-0 victory over the Raiders), you can just see that's just him understanding football and allowing himself to be in the best position that he can be in to get open. He can make big plays that way.
"I think he does a great job of understanding how people have played him. And he can take the experience of that and apply it to what's going on in that moment. And I think that showed (against the Raiders) just him understanding on certain routes, they may play him a certain way and he knows how to get open."
A couple of those routes resulted in touchdowns for Kamara, who said homework and instinct are significant collaborators on his "choice" routes.
"It's a lot of film work that goes into that, and then just a lot of understanding," he said. "I think me and Andy have got some chemistry, too, and he's understanding how I'm seeing things, I'm understanding how he's seeing things.
"Those choice routes that I ran on Sunday, it's kind of easy to get lost in those because I have an end that I'm realizing is trying to basically knock me out of the concept because he's trying to 'butch' me, is what we call it – he's trying to hit me to knock off the timing. So him jumping out and trying to butch me, I'm already analyzing that and I'm just slipping up under him.
"And at that point, the person who has me (in man coverage), he's in a dilemma because he's expecting me to go outside to beat the butch, but I'm not. I'm just breaking the route off early and just kind of turned it into a quick slant, knowing that there's nobody in the middle of the field. They don't have a defender there playing a shell, so it's easy pickings for me."
On the first touchdown, a 16-yard reception, Kamara powered through a couple of tackle attempts, met a defender at the goal line, collided there and stretched the ball to break the plane of the goal line. On the second, a 36-yarder, he caught the short pass across the middle, sprinted for the right pylon and ran through a tackle attempt inside the 10 to score.
The kinds of plays that he has built himself for.