One of the standout performances from last night unquestionably was 4th year Saints RB Mark Ingram’s 8 carry, 83 yard performance in a thrilling 26-24 win over the Rams in St. Louis. Please allow me to be clear: as one of Ingram’s biggest critics, I have no problem eating a slice of “Humble Pie” that the embattled RB is currently serving to me and others this morning. Make no mistake about it — no one, not even me, can question Ingram’s desire ; but last night I saw something that I HADN’T SEEN since his Heisman Trophy winning season in 2009: that ability to shift it to “another gear” after hitting the hole; something that previously had been ABSENT since his arrival in 2011.
Ingram ran with power and a sense of purpose, and THAT is the Ingram that I (and other critics of his as well) have been waiting to see since the Saints traded up for him in the latter part of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Where was this side of Mark Ingram all of this time? Perhaps his biggest advocates were correct in the assumption that the reason for his previous difficulties were incurred because of an offensive line that lacked cohesion and effectiveness. Emerging star 2nd year OT Terron Armstead certainly deserves a significant amount of credit for Ingram’s resurgence, and if last night is a clear indication against a vaunted Rams defensive line no less, then there are GREAT things ahead for the Saints in 2014.
I will caution however that this is preseason; and despite warnings from my fellow colleagues such as Ramon Antonio Vargas of the New Orleans Advocate, I’m hesitant to crown Ingram as the NFL rushing yards leader for the upcoming season. Regardless of how he actually does do this season, there’s no question that we saw a completely different Ingram last night. In fact, what we saw last night was exactly what I’ve been waiting to see for the last 3 and a half years —- the Heisman Trophy winning, All-American, All-SEC RB who was the consensus number #1 RB in the nation and entering into the 2011 Draft.
I’m referencing the same Mark Ingram that became Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 2009 (with 1,658 yards rushing) as he helped lead the Crimson Tide to the school’s 13th national title, which had been its first since 1992 . Ingram was just the sixth player to win the Heisman and a national championship in the same season since 1950, until Jameis Winston of Florida State did it last year. Ingram was also the first running back to capture the Heisman and a national championship in the same season since former Hall of Fame RB Tony Dorsett (University of Pittsburgh) in 1976 . THAT is the Ingram I’ve been waiting to see — the same Ingram who made a good Rams defense look pretty bad last night.
Saints head coach Sean Payton had said back in April that the Saints would be seeking a return to the “power” running style that had made the Saints offense so successful during their 2009 Super Bowl run, a style that obviously in recent seasons has been abandoned.Whether or not that departure from a more balanced attack was truly the cause for them not making it back to the Super Bowl or not, it’s clear that when it’s utilized it becomes yet another tremendous weapon among many options in the Saints’ offensive attack. With defenses now having to key in on rookie and dynamic WR sensation Brandin Cooks, Ingram should see plenty of opportunity to make this season a special one.
Ingram will have to remain focused, as well as avoid the nagging little injuries (like turf toe) that have limited his ability thus far since his time in New Orleans. There can be absolutely no doubt now after last night’s performance, that Ingram is indeed capable of finally living up to the expectations that his biggest of critics (myself included) had placed upon him. I’m not ashamed to publicly state right here that I was wrong about Ingram all of this time; and that his supporters were right in pigeon-holing the reasons (poor offensive line play, lack of opportunity due to play-calling) why he had lived up to the hype he had coming in. There’s no doubt that after last night, Ingram is serving up HUGE slices of “humble pie” ———— and I am all too happy to partake in its consumption………..