This past off-season the Saints' brain-trust (particularly Sean Payton) was pretty adamant about getting the run game going and doing it early. I don't know about you guys, but as of now I don't believe that mantra has held true.
The Saints began this quest by trading running back Chris Ivory to the Jets for a fourth round draft pick in the 2013 NFL draft. This turned out to be a wonderful move because they were able to get nose tackle John Jenkins, who is currently in a starting role. Unrelated to the Saints' situation, Ivory hasn't really produced up to the Jets' expectations either.
Even though the Saints got rid of a successful running back, the word around Who Dat Nation was that this would clear up the running back committee to allow for a "true" starting runner. I, for one, bought into this theory.
Insert Mark Ingram as the starter.
I will admit that at the beginning of this season I believed that Mark Ingram could still be great even after his lackluster production in the seasons prior to 2013. I mean a dominate, SEC running back that won the Heisman in epic fashion just couldn't be a bust, could he? In the opening game against the Atlanta Falcons, he carried the ball 9 times for 11 yards; 1.2 yards per clip. "Okay," I thought, "maybe he just has to get used to a new blocking scheme with Kromer now gone."
Well, that would have been a valid theory had Pierre Thomas not rush for 43 yards on 9 carries.
Ingram followed this performance up with an even worse, stomach-churning game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With 8 rushes for 20 yards and a disgusting 4th and 1 run before the half that Saints fans will never forget, Ingram practically sealed his fate. From that point on, I think I saw him on the field a total of two times the rest of the game.
Midway through the week leading up to the Cardinal's game, news broke that Mark could miss the game due to a toe injury. Saints fans everywhere (as much as I hate to say it) unleashed a sigh of relief because he couldn't screw up for at least one week. Things would be different, right?
Wrong. The Saints' leading rusher at the end of the half was Drew Brees with -1 yard. To make things even more embarrassing, it was a kneel down. The leading rusher at the end of the game would be Khiry Robinson, an undrafted rookie out of West Texas A&M, with 4 carries for 38 yards.
Fast forward to today, the day of their fourth game of the 2013 season, and the Saints have the 24th ranked rushing attack. Mark Ingram will miss his second game in a row and even though Khiry put up a good performance with his minuscule amount of chances, I don't expect him to play that much at all. Just like Chris Ivory never did. I expect for the Saints to alternate Sproles and Pierre the entire game and hope that they can have decent success running the ball.
I'm starting to believe that the Saints don't really want to (or like to) run the ball. Not counting the kneel down, the Saints had three first half rushes versus the Cardinals. Three.
"They just aren't doing it effectively enough to run more," you say? Then why has nothing changed as far as personnel? How many times did we see Chris Ivory go off against teams and then the following week he would get one or two carries the entire game, if any? And why has the Saints staff had so much faith in Ingram, who has consistently been the worst of the group since he arrived? It sounds stupid to say, but for the past couple of years the best rusher hasn't even been getting his fair share. It's highway robbery to not give the best runner the ball.
Something isn't right here guys, and I don't like it.