In 2010 the NFL fielded 17 total running backs who rushed for 1,000 yards or better.
Arian Foster, Texans (1616), Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (1467), Michael Turner, Falcons (1371), Chris Johnson, Titans (1364), Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (1324), Adrian Peterson, Vikings (1298), Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (1273), Steven Jackson, Rams (1241), Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (1235), Ray Rice, Ravens (1220), Peyton Hillis, Browns (1177), Darren McFadden, Raiders (1157), Cedric Benson, Bengals (1111), LeSean McCoy, Eagles (1080), Matt Forte, Bears (1069), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (1008), and LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers (1007). (stats from profootballreference.com)
The average carries total between the 17 players is 277.29, and the average yards per carry is 4.53. The sweet spot would seem to be 275 carries or more, nearly double of what is required of the Saints running backs.
That leaves no question that in Payton’s offense we will likely never see a running back get 275 carries or more, which of course means neither Thomas or Ingram will join the elite club of 1,000 yard rushers.
There are exceptions to the rule. Payton may one day increase Ingram’s workload and start viewing him more as a workhorse, as he did with McAllister.
Coming out of college analysts believed Ingram was an every down back capable of handling huge amounts of carries. The Saints lilkey view him in the featured back role someday, just not in his rookie season.
Expectations for Ingram should be curbed a bit. He will see good playing time and a realistic rushing total should be around 600 yards or so, maybe double digit touchdowns given the nose he seems to have for the end zone.
Thomas meanwhile should turn in another performance similar to his 2009 season — 800 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards — losing some goal line carries to Ingram.
Fans of the Saints shouldn’t expect any more. Just remember that it’s not the running backs, it’s the system that Payton has in place that limits potential for a McAllister like season.