The New Orleans Saints are a team that is looking for a big bounce back year in 2013 after their 2012 NFL season was marred by the “Bounty-gate” suspensions to key defenders for most of the season and their head coach for the entire year. They finished last year at just 7-9 and six games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.
However, the Saints offense didn’t miss too much of a beat last year, with star quarterback Drew Brees throwing for over 5,000 yards and more than 40 touchdowns for yet another year. There’s no question that they could put points on the board last year, even if it was largely through the passing game.
The Saints threw 671 pass attempts last season, while calling just 370 rushing plays. They have been and will likely continue to be a team that heavily favors throwing the ball, largely because Brees is such a game-changer. Despite how great Brees is, though, having a consistent running threat would make him even better. However, the Saints didn’t have that last season.
Their leading rusher last season was Mark Ingram, who got 156 carries and produced 602 yards. Pierre Thomas got the second most carries at 105, followed by Darren Sproles at 48 and the now-departed Chris Ivory at 40 carries. The Saints ran an obvious platoon at running back last season, but Ingram was the featured back in that system.
Looking towards the 2013 season, though, that shouldn’t be the case anymore. In his first two NFL seasons, Ingram has 278 carries for just 1,076 yards, only good for a 3.9 yards per carry average. Meanwhile, Thomas has 215 carries over the past two seasons for 1,035 yards, making his yards per carry average 4.8. Thomas is five years older than Ingram, so the team is obviously trying to develop him. However, it seems like Ingram may just not be an effective enough back at the pro level.
Though Sproles is used in the passing game out of the backfield more frequently than he’s handed off to, he can still help the Saints run a platoon if that’s the way they want to roll. Rookie Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet can also be developed as young running backs if New Orleans wants to continue to try and do that. The fact of the matter is, though, that Ingram has shown little signs of being an effective running back and the Saints should work on getting him fewer carries this season.