Now that Drew Brees has finally (!!!) been signed to his new mega contract worth up to $100 million for five years, we can start looking ahead to what will be an exciting season. Cheers to a great five years ahead of us.
I am going to start a series of different prediction posts such as "Team Sleepers" and "NFC South Preview" that will offer a taste of how I feel the season will go.
We begin with the series of "Team X-Factor: Offense Edition." The term "X-Factor" is defined as followed: a variable in a situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome. After reading the definition, you can determine that the "X-Factor" of a team must be always active in the game and contribute a considerable amount to the performance and success of the team.
Looking at the offensive side of the ball last year, a few names come to mind that could've been "X-Factors." Quarterback Drew Brees is the first and obvious player. Him being the quarterback and "general" of the offense, he is expected to be great. Each season, Drew continues to impress us more and more with his performance.
The other two players that come to mind also contributed a lot to the teams' greatness last year. They were running back Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham. Both Sproles and Graham consistently put together wonderful games. You could even say that the offense ran through these two players. Whenever the team was in a bind and needed an escape route, the ball was put in their hands.
For the 2012 season, the offensive player that will be the "X-Factor" has tough expectations to live up to following the seasons that Sproles and Graham put up. He will have to be reliable in battle. The player I predict to be the offensive "X-Factor" is running back Mark Ingram.
Last year, Ingram didn't necessarily play up to par for a first round draft pick. But he did show signs of greatness. In 10 games last year, Ingram totaled 122 carries for 474 yards on the ground and 11 receptions for 46 yards through the air. He also found the end zone five times, all on rushing attempts. For missing six games last year, his season was not awful.
In 2012, I think Mark will prove why he was a first round draft pick. He has the size, strength, and talent to do so. While he was a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, the offense was basically built around giving him the ball and watching him go. In 2009, he carried the Crimson Tide to their National Championship title. While that was college ball, the SEC is as close to the NFL as you can get.
I believe the Saints are going to try to get Ingram more involved in the offense and feed him the rock more this year. Last year Coach Payton himself said, "The only thing keeping Mark from being Rookie of the Year is me." Let's see if Pete Carmichael Jr. takes a different approach.