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10 New Orleans Saints who must make impact in 2015: No. 9, Mark Ingram

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In my first post I suggested both Brandon Coleman and Sentavius Jones as being the tenth player(s) the  New Orleans Saints need to make an impact for 2015. That will be the only number on this list with more than one player, but I want to make it clear that this list isn’t ranking the Saints players in order of their value to the team or how good I think they are.

It’s about which players need to have a strong impact (hopefully positive) on the team for them to have any hope of becoming serious contenders. That means that all of the players in concert with their teammates will make the Saints a top notch team in my opinion, but only if the right guys have an impact in the right ways. Numbers are great, but how you get those numbers is just as important and that is how we get to Number 9 on our list.

No. 9: Running Back Mark Ingram.

No. 9 is Mark Ingram, and I won’t be surprised at all if any of you question that decision and demand that Mark should be higher on the list. I acknowledge that Ingram had a very good year last year and the team made its opinion of him very clear when it signed him to an extension. However, the reason that I have Ingram relatively low on this list doesn’t really have anything to do with his value or his worth as a player to this team — It has to do with his role and the type of impact he needs to have.

Let’s be clear, if Ingram regresses to the player he was his first couple of years the Saints are in hot water. C.J. Spiller is best used as a specialist and a mismatch, and while Khiry Robinson is a talented player who has shown flashes, I don’t think he brings the same value as Mark does right now.

So what type of impact am I looking for from Ingram? The kind that I believe best matches his abilities. Ingram isn’t a top tier back in the NFL from the perspective of being a game-breaker. All of the other backs in the league who would be considered near the top are capable of ripping off plays of 40 plus yards at any time.

The ability to do so is often more important than its frequency, but that isn’t Mark’s game. His career long for a single carry is 35 yards. While that is far from a terrible number, it’s also not something that scares you.

That isn’t what the New Orleans Saints have him for though. If all we needed was backs who can make big plays we would have let him walk and just kept Khiry Robinson (62 yard career long) and C.J. Spiller (77 yard run). Both of those players are capable of having a far bigger impact than Ingram on a single carry. But what makes Mark so important to the Saints isn’t his explosiveness, but his consistency. If the Saints are going to be a contender next year then they need Ingram to become someone who can be relied upon.

If Ingram is able to continue to improve his pass protection (he has put a lot of work into it), while also continuing to improve his pass catching ability to go along with his hardnosed running style it will be a tremendous help. Ingram needs to be the guy who acts as the ‘starter’ for the Saints offense. A player who gets you shorter second and third down chances consistently and occasionally rips off a bigger play to gash the defense.

If Ingram can be the kind of consistent player on offense that Cam Jordan is on defense, then they will have an offense that is almost impossible to stop. Ingram possesses a rare blend of power, vision, and balance that allows him to get the most out of each carry. He needs to maximize those talents so that teams begin to game plan for him. They need to think “if we don’t stop Ingram from getting going we are never going to get them off the field”. You don’t need Mark to go ten carries for 150 yards (he won’t), you need him to go 18 carries for 80-90…every week.

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The more the offense can count on him the more value he brings to it, and also the more consistent that he is the more the auxiliary players such as C.J. Spiller will have opportunities to break open the ball game.

Ingram isn’t just a set up guy though. Yes, part of his job is to wear down the defense and make it easier for the Saints more dynamic players to make plays (also to open up the play action pass). But he also can have a tremendous impact in the red zone. It’s no coincidence that the best red zone backs are also the ones who are generally consistent. Ingram being able to get yards when they are needed gives the Saints someone who can be relied upon when the field is ‘shortened’.

An improved offensive line is obviously going to be one of the keys to Ingram having an even better year than last year (226 carries for 964 yards), but at the end of the day, his success will be defined by his will and ability to get the most out of himself.

The last couple of years he has demonstrated to all of his doubters just how much he cares, and we as fans have lovingly dubbed him ‘Angry Ingram’ as a response to his efforts. When Mark Ingram gets into ‘Angry’ mode he becomes a human steam roller who simply refuses to be stopped.

If the New Orleans Saints can get THAT player on a consistent basis then while his numbers may not amaze, his overall impact on the team’s success will be significant. If the Saints are to make some noise in the postseason next year, then Mark Ingram simply must consistently impact the game for the Black and Gold next season.

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