On the surface, Adrian Peterson joining the New Orleans Saints seems akin to jamming a square peg into a round hole. Unless you have a team of NASA nerds at your disposal, those ventures generally end up an epic failure.
Drew Brees ran 579 plays out of the shotgun, with an additional 374 in singleback formations, per Next Gen Stats. Just 104 snaps came from the I-Formation, in which Peterson has earned most of his success. New Orleans ran more plays from under center than most teams last season, but in the pass-heavy Saints offense, Peterson could be a fish out of water, or at least relegated to a lesser role unless he can adapt.
Speaking Tuesday on Good Morning Football, NFL Network analyst Steve Smith noted it's up to Peterson to accept the challenge of adjusting to the new offense.
"It's also going to be interesting for him," Smith said. "He has to learn to do some different things, compared to what he did in Minnesota. In Minnesota, he was downhill, running. (In New Orleans) he has Drew Brees. They are going to throw the ball a lot more than he's used to, so he's going to have to learn how to catch the ball out of the backfield, compared to what he did in Minnesota. In Minnesota, he wasn't catching the ball out of the backfield as much as they are in New Orleans."
In limited snaps last season in adjusting to a Vikings offense utilizing more shotgun and one-back sets, Peterson struggled. Playing behind the worst offensive line in the NFL in Minnesota didn't help, but All Day has never been known for his pass-catching acumen, and his pass blocking is mediocre, to put it nicely.
Smith believes that Peterson can change both of those perceptions.
"It doesn't sound easy, but you have to work at it," the ex-receiver said. "Just like a wide receiver who drops passes, or a wide receiver who has to learn how to block. It's all about desire. Do you want to do it?
"A lot of times older players are deemed not to be able to adjust. I think guys look and see and they say: 'Is this a team I can adjust to?' And I think (Peterson) found a home in New Orleans that allows him to adjust to that team."
At 32-years-old with 2,418 regular-season carries on his wheels, many will argue that Peterson won't be able to adapt swiftly enough.
"Now he is an old dog that has to show he can do new tricks," Smith said of Peterson. "But he wants to show people he can learn a new system; he can adjust. One of the key factors with every older guy going to a new team: Can he adapt to that new system? That's always a question mark: Is that guy selfish? Will he do the things that are asked of him? If he wasn't able to do it, he wouldn't have gotten a job in the first place. There are so many more guys that flunk out of the NFL because they can't adjust than there are guys that adjust and do well."
"What I did when I first got to Baltimore is I was the oldest wide receiver in the room and I was the last guy in the line," Smith said. "I earned my voice by showing them I worked hard. So when I lined up in the wide receiver drills, I lined up in the back. And each day, each week, I nudged up more and more as I made more plays. I didn't come in and say 'this is the guy.' They told me it was an open competition. Well that's fine, my whole life has been an open competition. So that competition will continue to go ...
"(Peterson) is still an alpha male, but he has to earn that voice. ... He is now a new guy learning a new system, but he's Adrian Peterson. So what he needs to do is, he's going to go in there, he's going to be quiet, he's going to survey, he's going to see the landscape and see how everything is working out. And then eventually he'll just surpass guys."
Smith also scoffed at the notion that Peterson's addition could cap Mark Ingram's efficiency, after the 27-year-old enjoyed the best year of his career
"First of all, it's healthy competition," Smith said of Peterson and Ingram in the same backfield. "If you don't want competition that means you're really not an alpha male, you don't want to work hard. And that's kinda Millennial. And then too, if you don't like to work, then the guy behind you is so close, he's white on rice right now ... he is pushing you to excellence, because Adrian Peterson is the standard of excellence. Knee surgery, shoulder, everything he's done, he's done better after coming off of an injury."
Classic shot at Millennials by the 37-year-old Smith.