The New Orleans Saints are in the market for a pass rusher. Many expect them to address the need both in free agency and the draft.
If the New Orleans Saints do go after a free agent pass rusher, there’s a chance they’ll go after Chargers DE/OLB Melvin Ingram.
After looking over his tape, I have to say: the Saints could do better than signing Ingram. He is reportedly asking for Oliver Vernon money at around 5 years, $85 million. That’s top dollar for a DE. And there are simply better DE free agents out there this year.
I see Ingram as a versatile, talented DE who could fit well in Dennis Allen’s “multiple” defense. But he’s just not the explosive pass-rusher that this Saints roster so desperately needs.
What jumps out off of Ingram’s tape is his versatility. He is an instinctual and athletic player that can fill multiple roles across the field.
Ingram typically lined up as a DE, and is at his most effective setting the edge against the run. But would often drop back into coverage and cover TEs down the field and RBs in the flats. He can cover reasonably well. He’s not going to shut anyone down but he’s more than able to limit RB gains in the flat and run with the average tight end. That could be a valuable asset against teams like the Falcons, who open up the field on the outside to create space underneath for Freeman and Coleman.
Ingram occasionally lined up as a LB, and would cover a zone around the middle of the field. That sort of ability would allow Dennis Allen to be creative with his coverages, and could help with the defense’s ability to be “multiple.”
One major advantage of this versatility is that it makes Ingram particularly effective on stunts. As the OL is often working to figure out whether Ingram will rush or drop back, a subtle feint into coverage can allow him to come through stunts untouched. That’s how Ingram managed many of his QB pressures in 2016.
Against the run
Ingram has a unique combination of speed and strength that allows him to be a dominant EDGE player against the run.
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At only 247 lbs., Ingram is on the light side for a DE, and one would expect that would make him a liability in run support. But Ingram is surprisingly strong for his weight. Teams tend to run towards the opposite side of the field, even when that means running at DROY Joey Bosa.
He plays with great pad level and does an excellent job of keeping his body turned to stay disengaged. He has a good instinct for run direction, and when teams do run his way they often choose to send multiple blockers to Ingram. If he’s left with a single blocker and an approaching ballcarrier, chances are he breaks loose and makes the tackle.
Against the pass
Where Ingram lacks elite talent, in my opinion, is when he’s rushing the passer. And that’s exactly where the Saints most desperately need help.
Now, granted, Ingram would still be an upgrade as a pass rusher over Paul Kruger. He put together 29 QB hurries in 2016, good for 6th best in the league. But like I said, most of those hurries came off of stunt action, and Ingram only managed to put together 8 sacks on the year, tied for 22nd.
Ingram just doesn’t have the pass-rushing repertoire that some of the other free agent options have. He’s not creative with his hands, and lacks elite explosion to get around the edge against NFL tackles.
He doesn’t lose many one-on-one battles. But if he wants to bring in top DE money, he needs to consistently win those battles. And he just didn’t do that enough as a rusher to justify paying him upwards of $16 million a year.
Ingram is a great player who would, in a vacuum, be a good fit for Dennis Allen’s defense. If the Saints had more talent at pass rusher, and if Ingram didn’t want top dollar, I’d think he’d be a nice player for the Saints.
But their roster composition just screams a need for a pure pass-rusher, and in that vein there are better options.
To be honest, I don’t think any team should pay Ingram the sort of money he’s asking for. Yes, he’s a great player who deserves a serious pay-day. But not $16 or $17 million a year.
Let me know what you think.
I’ll be continuing this series later with extended looks at all the top DE free agents.