The Saints running back position has always been head-scratching, ever since Sean Payton arrived and especially since Deuce McAllister retired. That was never supposed to happen after they drafted Reggie Bush. And now, it is starting to look that way with Mark Ingram as well, with many, fans mostly, citing him as a bust. I don’t think he’s a bust, it is way too early to determine that for sure, especially with the injury issues he’s had. But is he on his last chance to prove himself as a sure-fire starter?
According to ESPN, he has a career average 3.9 yards per carry for a total of 1,076 yards and 10 touchdowns on 278 carries. Last year he averaged 3.9 yards per carry with 602 yards and 5 touchdowns on 156 carries. If you do the math, he has gotten better from his rookie year. But, you aren’t drafted in the first round to run under, at the very least, 800 yards per year. You take advantage of your opportunities and make something happen.
Mark Ingram at Alabama was a dynamo at running back. He broke your ankles and then plowed you over while still eating his breakfast sandwich. He was unstoppable. Injuries aside, his potential was why the Saints drafted the Heisman Trophy winner after his junior season. He hasn’t always been ruled out because of injuries but has had minor knee surgery and a consistent issue with his toe.
Fortunately, he seems to be in great shape and ready to make an impact. Also fortunate for him, he is unlikely to face as strict competition in the backfield with Chris Ivory now in New York. The obstacle he faces is to avoid injury and beat out Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, both of which have proven throughout their careers that they cannot be ignored on the depth chart. They both helped make the decision for the Saints to part ways with Reggie Bush. But with Thomas turning 29 at the end of next season and Sproles turning 30 this month, the Saints don’t have the same luxury with Ingram. He must step up and prove he belongs.
He was our best back last year, especially down the stretch. With more touches, it is easy to see that he will punish more defenders next year. And, as Mike Triplett reports, with the healthiest and hungriest he’s been since he’s been drafted, I suspect that the Saints will give him every chance to succeed. But for a running back, at the end of the day, it matters how many yards you run and how many points you score. Ingram will only prove he isn’t a bust if he gives the team concrete success.