After missing his fourth consecutive game with a foot injury, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram will have to prove himself upon his return. The Saints backfield is crowded right now with the likes of veterans Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, as well as young guys Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet. There is also fullback Jed Collins.
Through his first two games this season, Ingram compiled only 31 yards on 17 carries for a dismal 1.8 yards per carry. He scored no touchdowns and to his credit did not fumble the ball at all. Coming into this season completely healthy, Ingram was poised to have a breakout year after performing only so-so since he was drafted in the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft.
There was much criticism of Ingram through his first two games, and perhaps some of that was warranted. As a whole, however, the Saints’ running game was not that great through the first couple of weeks. The first 100-yard rushing game did not come until the Week 3 match-up against the Arizona Cardinals, and even then it came with an asterisk—Drew Brees accounted for 21 of those 104 rushing yards. Last week against the New England Patriots, however, Saints’ running backs rushed for 120 yards combined. Robinson alone tallied 53 yards on only seven carries and one touchdown. Cadet, too, got in on the scoring, catching a short pass from Brees and backed himself into the end zone.
The point is that upon Ingram’s return, he must prove himself capable of gaining positive yardage. Robinson, who has been used more and more recently, has shown signs of brilliant running and explosive play. There are no signs that he will slow down or let up, either.
Although the Saints are high on Ingram and his capabilities, others are waiting in the mix, and it will be tough to take carries and snaps away from them if Ingram doesn’t produce. Interesting times are ahead for New Orleans’ running back committee.