Mark Ingram may have quietly had the most success of any New Orleans Saints running back. That’s an odd thing to say given his pedigree - tremendous college success capped off by a Heisman Trophy victory, some National Championship games for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and landing in New Orleans as a gilded first round draft pick.
Naturally, Ingram struggled to find reps early in his career. He wasn’t as bruising a runner as the Saints expected and struggled to convince coaches he could run routes or catch. But over time he’s grown and shaped his game into being, just maybe, the greatest running back in Saints history.
Look at the numbers: Deuce McAllister set the standard with 6,096 rushing yards and another 49 touchdowns on the ground. And Deuce accomplished that on an impressive 1,429 attempts, also the most in Saints history.
For comparison, Ingram is entering the 2018 season with a career totaling 5,362 rushing yards (734 fewer yards than Deuce) and 44 scores (trailing Deuce by five). Most impressively, there’s a gap of just 246 carries between Deuce and Ingram (who has logged 1,183, to his credit). He places second in Saints history in each of those categories, behind just Deuce, while ranking 21st in fumbles. On top of the stellar production, he protects the football better than his reputation among some salty fans may suggest.
If Ingram picks up where he left off he will surpass Deuce’s yardage mark in the first ten or eleven weeks of the 2018 season. Ingram averaged 70.3 rushing yards per game last year, bettering his previous high of 65.2 the previous year. He also trailed the Los Angeles Rams superhero Todd Gurley in rushing touchdowns (thirteen) to rank second in the NFL with a dozen of his own.
This sets the stage for an interesting, maybe-problematic 2019 offseason. Ingram will be a free agent after the expiration of his four-year, $16-million contract while holding every rushing title in team history. Running backs have never been valued less in the NFL, with Tennessee Titans kicker Ryan Succop signing a new deal in February that matches Ingram’s average-per-year salary ($4-million) and nearly matching in total guarantees ($7.5-million to Ingram’s $7.6-million).
With reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara making the perfect compliment to Ingram and running backs playing under such depressed salaries leaguewide, it would be a tough sell for the Saints to explain not doing their part for Ingram to retire in black and gold.