Dec 29, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Buccaneers 42-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Ingram has hit a few rough patches on his way to NFL stardom. He just doesn’t look the Heisman Trophy winner he once was in college. The former Alabama standout has certainly showcased flashes of his ability while with the New Orleans Saints, but it looks as if he’s on his last straw after stretching the patience of the Who Dat Nation for several years now.
I feel like too much is expected from the young running back, however. Obviously, you’re not going to hit the 1,000-yard mark while wearing Black and Gold and I hope all of the fans know that. That’s just not the style of Crescent City football. The Saints have been playing with a three and even four-headed monster at times in the backfield for years now. There is no feature back in New Orleans. There are no 30 carries per game, so maybe fans can ease up on the kid a tad bit.
What can we really expect from a guy who only touches the ball 78 times (2013) all year? Okay, maybe he got off to a slow start, but it is tough to find your pace when your snaps are limited. As last season progressed, Ingram began to find a rhythm — a rhythm that came with an increased workload, which assisted the running back in finishing the year off with a solid 4.9 yards per carry average (led the team).
2014 will be a fresh start, and with Darren Sproles now out of the picture, this is Ingram’s chance to prove his critics wrong. He is a much better fit in a ground-and-pound system and the emergence of power-back Khiry Robinson may actually force Sean Payton and company to rely on the running game more than ever. Developing a nice one-two punch with Ingram and Robinson while Pierre Thomas takes over third-down duties for short yardage and screen plays sounds beautiful. The opportunity is hard to pass up and it would ease a bit of pressure off Drew Brees without a doubt. It’s just an idea, but don’t be surprised if we see a heavier ground attack this season.
After New Orleans passed on the opportunity to exercise his fifth-year option, the former Crimson Tide superstar is more determined than ever. “The sky is the limit,” he told interviewers after Friday’s practices at training camp facilities in West Virginia. “I want to be the best back to ever freaking play the game of football.” Since the Saints decided not to exercise that option, Ingram becomes a free agent after this year rather than the 2015 season, so he better at least play his best game of football.
Marky Mark’s had several nice runs at camp so far, but that will need to continue on throughout the season if he wishes to remain with his funky bunch down in the Big Easy. The time is now. The potential is there. The opportunity awaits. The year of Ingram is amongst us.