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NFL New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints Must Figure Out What To Do With Mark Ingram

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

After the New Orleans Saints traded away running back Chris Ivory to the New York Jets for a fourth-round draft pick, it seemed as if former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft pick Mark Ingram was in a great position to get more reps in a crowded backfield. After suffering injuries in his rookie season in the 2011 NFL season, Ingram has yet to show Saints fans why New Orleans spent a first round draft pick on him.

During his three years at the University of Alabama, Ingram rushed for over 3,200 yards, set the record for touchdowns by a freshman with 12, and broke the single season rushing record in 2009 that was previously held by Bobby Humphrey. When New Orleans spent a first round draft pick on him in the 2011 NFL Draft, it was thought he would help them shore up a running game that had dropped off a bit from years past.

Since becoming a Saint, Ingram has rushed for 474 and and 602 yards in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He has maintained a 3.9 yards per carry average both years, and both years he reached the end zone a total five times. His stats for receiving out of the backfield have yet to crack the 100 yard mark, and he has no touchdowns to his credit, either. Luckily for him, however, he has managed to keep his fumbles down, tallying a total of one lost fumble since 2011.

Ingram’s 2013 campaign has not started off well, either. He has a total of 31 yards on 17 carries for an unspectacular 1.8 yards per rushing attempt through two games. He has yet to be targeted for any passes out of the backfield, and his pass blocking skills are nothing to write home about. He is also questionable for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, having been listed as having a toe injury. His inability to reach the end zone at the goal line in the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday also set off a small firestorm of criticism from fans, with many calling for the Saints to cut their ties with him.

So, just what is the deal with Ingram? Was his success at Alabama more of a result of playing in a great system under head coach Nick Saban? Are the Saints not using him properly, or is he just destined to become a bust?

I’m not quite ready to label him a bust, and he does have talent. A talentless running back, even playing within a superb system such as that of Alabama, could not have rushed for over 3,200 yards in three seasons. New Orleans’ running game has also been somewhat inconsistent since their 2009 Super Bowl run when the team rushed for over 2,100 yards. Run blocking has also been an issue at times, as well.

At this point I don’t think New Orleans will try to trade him away, as I’m unsure what his trade value would be. I’m also not content to sit back and label Ingram a bust just yet, but he does need to show noticeable signs of improvement if he hopes to grab himself a nice contract in 2015, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Jack Cavanaugh is a New Orleans Saints contributing writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cav_jack, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.