Saints RBs: Can we rely on Mark Ingram? 

August, 5, 2011
When 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was drafted by the New Orleans Saints this spring, it made sense to view him as the long-lost star running back that coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have been yearning for. I can understand that point of view. But I also understand the statistics don't really support it. Even if the Saints had a stud running back -- and folks, this is a rookie, not Adrian Peterson -- it's no given they would use him the way fantasy owners covet.

The facts don't lie, and those facts say that no Saints running back has rushed for as many as 800 yards in a season since 2006, when franchise icon Deuce McAllister rushed for 1,057 yards. Four seasons have passed since then, and 800 yards really isn't a lot. Sure, perhaps Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Mike Bell, Aaron Stecker, Chris Ivory and others weren't worthy of a ton of carries, and I wouldn't argue that point, but Thomas and Darren Sproles -- who essentially assumes the role of Miami Dolphins acquisition Bush -- remain on the Saints, as well as Ivory, last season's top rusher. I really doubt Payton will simply ignore them. It's crowded, folks, and I think that's just fine for Payton, because he has divvied up the running back load for years as a philosophy, not because he lacked a stud.

Thomas hasn't been the most durable running back since arriving in 2007. The most carries he has accumulated in a season are 147. Prior to an injury-interrupted 2010 season, he had averaged 5.1 yards per rush, an impressive number that gives credence to him being used often. He's productive. I don't see how things have changed all that much for 2011. Thomas is presumably healthy after an ankle injury derailed him, and while I doubt he gets more overall touches than Ingram, don't be surprised if it's an even split. Then there's Sproles, a diminutive master pass-catcher, and Ivory, the biggest of the team's potential feature backs and someone who averaged 5.2 yards per rush in 2010.