Evans’ confidence is based on two things: Peterson’s history as a “freak of nature” and Evans’ own history with the Saints’ offense.
The NFL Network analyst believes the Saints can have the same kind of balance that they had during their 2009 Super Bowl season — when Evans was the fullback before tearing his ACL in Week 7, and the Saints finished sixth in the NFL in rushing yardage.
“In ’09, we were lethal,” Evans told ESPN.com. “And we had Drew Brees at the helm, so Lord knows we could throw the ball on anybody. But you couldn’t deal with us.
“Every team’s gonna try to make you one-dimensional. That’s nearly impossible with a healthy AD. … You don’t get both. You can’t stop AD and limit Drew. And you can’t play Drew and then limit AD. Our business just doesn’t work that way. So very rarely have we seen one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game and the second best quarterback in the game right now, in my opinion, have a running back like AD.”
Evans has stressed repeatedly that he is a big fan of Saints running back Mark Ingram, whom he called “as complete as complete gets when it comes to a back.”
“But AD is a Hall of Famer, first-ballot, without a doubt,” said Evans, who debunked doubts about Peterson’s ability to keep thriving at age 32, after a torn meniscus wiped out most of his 2016 season with the Minnesota Vikings.
“You know, he’s one season removed from the rushing title,” Evans reminded. “People are like, ‘Oh, he’s been hurt.’ He’s had two injuries. One (a torn ACL in 2011), he came back from, and we were like, ‘Who is this freak of nature human?’ And then the other was last year.
“So people want to quantify age and running backs and all this stuff, and that stuff just doesn’t matter. It’s individual … What is AD? Well, AD is superhuman in a lot of ways. So I’m hoping that this offense really balances it out the way that we had in early ’09.”
The Saints averaged 154 yards per game through the first 10 games with a combination of Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Mike Bell during the 2009 season.
Peterson has looked healthy and fluid so far during Saints OTAs — though that’s easier to do this time of year when players aren’t in full pads or live tackling yet.
Evans said if healthy, Peterson should get the bulk of New Orleans’ carries. And he thinks coach Sean Payton should feed Peterson 20 touches per game while finding creative ways to use Peterson and Ingram together at times.
“If he does, teams will break their necks to stop him – and Drew will set record after record,” Evans said. “I believe there’s enough touches to go around, especially with the creative nature of Sean’s mind, to get Mark and AD on the field a lot at the same time, which will really frustrate defenses, especially with what Drew brings to the table. …
“If the wide receiving corps continues to grow and this O-line can continue to put Drew in position to win games, the recipe that they’ve built talent-wise this year with what Drew brings to the table and what AD brings to the table should be unstoppable. Now, we know nothing is in this business. But I get really excited about the potential of this offense.”