The 2017 regular season will begin on Monday, September 11 for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints will start their 51st NFL season in Minneapolis, MN, as they take on the Minnesota Vikings in a prime time matchup. The game is only 22 days from today, and Canal Street Chronicles continues our own countdown to the season opener by looking back at the players who have worn the No. 22 throughout the history of the team.
Van Jakes (CB, 1986-1988)
Jakes joined the Saints in 1986, after playing for the Kansas City Chiefs the first two years of his career. He intercepted 2 passes during his first year in a Saints uniform, and by 1987 had worked his way into the starting lineup. He had 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery for that '87 squad, the first playoff team in New Orleans history. Jakes duplicated his 3 interception performance during 1988, departing New Orleans after the season with 8 career interceptions with the team.
Fred Thomas (CB, 2000-2007)
Thomas signed a free agent contract to join the Saints in 2000 after spending his first four years with the Seattle Seahawks. He started all 16 games for the Saints in 2001, leading the team in passes defensed and recording his first career interception. Thomas again led New Orleans in passes defensed in 2002, while also intercepting a career high and team leading 5 passes and finishing second on the team in tackles. Thomas' 4 interceptions in 2003 were once again a team high, while also leading in passes defensed and finishing among the team leaders in tackles.
Thomas struggled over the last few years of his career with the Saints. The undersized cornerback was victimized more often than he made plays in some games. One especially forgettable game was a 2006 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, when receiver Chad Johnson included Thomas in his personal highlight reel for the season, to the tune of 6 catches for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns. Such performances unfortunately became more commonplace over Thomas' last couple seasons, until the end of his career in 2007. Thomas did have 13 interceptions during his time with the Saints, along with forcing 8 fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, and 5 sacks.
Tracy Porter (CB, 2008-2011)
The Saints selected Porter in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. His rookie season was cut short after just 5 games due to a wrist injury. Porter started 12 games during the 2009 season, finishing second on the team with a career best 4 interceptions, returning one of them for a 4th Quarter touchdown during a comeback against the Miami Dolphins.
Porter provided two of the most memorable postseason moments in New Orleans playoff history during that 2009-10 season. His 4th Quarter interception of Viking quarterback Brett Favre ended a late Minnesota drive in the NFC championship game, preserving a tie game that the Saints went on to win in overtime. Late in the 4th Quarter of Super Bowl XLIV against Indianapolis, Porter intercepted Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and returned it 74 yards for the game clinching touchdown, giving New Orleans the Super Bowl championship.
Porter left New Orleans after the 2011 season, signing a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos, and has played with four different teams since his departure from the Saints.
Mark Ingram (RB, 2013-current)
A 1st round draft choice by the Saints in 2011, Ingram makes his second appearance on our countdown, after wearing the number 28 for the first two years of his professional career. Switching to No. 22 in 2013, Ingram has been the Saints leading rusher in yards and touchdowns for each of the last three seasons. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time in his career in 2016, with 1,043 yards on a career high 5.1 average per carry. Ingram has improved his pass receiving abilities as well, enabling him to be an every down threat at running back. He had a career best 50 receptions and 405 yards in 2015, and adding 46 receptions and 4 receiving touchdowns a year ago.
Coming into 2017, Ingram is 3rd on the Saints all-time rushing list with 4,238 yards, to go along with 32 rushing scores. He is 29 yards away from passing Saints hall of famer George Rogers for 2nd place, and quickly approaching Deuce McAllister's 6,096 yards for the top rushing mark in team history.
Other Saints players to wear No. 22: Charlie Brown (1967-68), Elijah Pitts (1970), Gary Lewis (1970), Dee Martin (1971), Howard Stevens (1973-74), Benny Johnson (1976), Ricky Ray (1979-81), Tyrone Anthony (1984-85), Derrick Taylor (1987), Michael Mayes (1989), Gil Fenerty (1990-91), Brad Muster (1993), Lorenzo Neal (1994-96), Tyronne Drakeford (1998-99)
Who was your favorite Saints player to wear No. 22?
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