Mark Ingram's Magic Number

Chris Graythen

Putting an end to the Mark Ingram debate, once and for all.

For the past two years I've been as staunch a defender of Mark Ingram as anyone else, against a growing number of frustrated Saints fans who are ready to give up on the running back.

The Ingram haters are quick to point out the useless two-yard runs up the middle, crediting him with nothing more and failing to see his true value. But that's an unfair and uneducated opinion, plain and simple.

My stance, however, has always been that Ingram's faults are not really his own. Instead, the coaching staff is to blame for not properly using the back and for not giving him enough carries. He's gotten lost in a crowded mix of talented running backs.

So I'm gonna put an end to all this talk once and for all. I'm out to prove that I'm right, and everyone else is wrong.

My argument has always been that Ingram simply doesn't get enough carries. Here's a look at Ingram's stats in games where he has less than 10 carries:

Less than 10 carries

Carries Total Yards Yards per Carry
8 11 1.4
9 32 3.6
9 22 2.4
9 38 4.2
6 13 2.2
5 11 2.2
5 11 2.2
5 16 3.2
7 21 3
3 7 2.3
7 44 6.3
6 15 2.5
Average - 6.6 Average - 20 Average - 3.0

And here's a look at games in which Ingram has more than 10 carries:

More than 10 carries

Carries Total Yards Yards per Carry
16 53 3.3
16 67 4.2
12 67 5.6
10 27 2.7
13 68 5.2
14 90 6.4
21 53 2.5
10 39 3.9
13 40 3.1
14 51 3.6
17 55 3.2
14 91 6.5
13 80 6.2
16 54 3.4
Average - 14.2 Average - 60 Average - 4.3

Obviously more carries leads to more yardage, that's to be expected. But notice his yards per carry number. Quite simply, Mark Ingram is more efficient when he touches the ball more than 10 times per game and is able to get into a rhythm. Let me repeat myself for all the haters out there: Mark Ingram is a better running back when he's actually given the opportunity to tote the rock more often.

But I didn't stop there. I wanted to know more. I needed to know more. And as it turns out, my hypothesis is only partially correct. Because there is such a thing as too many carries.

Check out Mark Ingram's stats when he's given more than 15 carries in a game:

More than 15 carries

Carries Total Yards Yards per Carry
16 54 3.4
17 55 3.2
21 53 2.5
16 53 3.3
16 67 4.2
Average - 17.2 Average - 56 Average - 3.3

Woah! Interestingly enough, Ingram's production actually decreases when he's relied upon most heavily. In fact, his average yards per carry hover close to what he averages with less than 10 touches per game. Turns out it's not as simple as more carries equals more production. Yes, I can admit when I'm wrong.

So when does Ingram hit his peak efficiency then?

10 to 15 carries

Carries Total Yards Yards per Carry
14 91 6.5
13 80 6.2
10 39 3.9
13 40 3.1
14 51 3.6
12 67 5.6
10 27 2.7
13 68 5.2
14 90 6.4
Average - 12.6 Average - 61 Average - 4.8

Now that's more like it! This is Ingram's sweet spot. So far in his career Ingram is at his best, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry, when he touches the ball between 10 and 15 times per game. This is exactly what we want to see more of from Ingram in 2013.

Looks like I was half right and half wrong. Ingram definitely needs to be getting a certain amount of touches to truly be effective as a running back, but there's a limit.

So the next time you find yourself getting angry with Mark Ingram's performance, make sure he's being given a fair shake and being used to the best of his ability. Chances are, your anger is misguided and should more accurately be pointed toward the coaches and the playcalling.

Any questions?

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