Entering his second season of his second stint in New Orleans, Mark Ingram II looked to add on to his franchise leading 6,267 career rushing yards. At 33 years old, Ingram is clearly not the same player he was when he left the New Orleans Saints in 2019, as injuries kept him out of 7 games this season, a season in which Ingram managed only 233 rushing yards, the lowest total of his career. I have nothing bad to say about Mark Ingram II, as he is one of the greatest Saints of all-time, but this season showed that age and injury might finally have caught up to the former Heisman Trophy winner and three-time Pro Bowler.
Ingram was drafted near the end of the first round of the 2011 draft after a stellar career at Alabama. Ingram led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship and became the first Heisman winner in school history and was really the first great player in the Nick Saban era along with Julio Jones. As a fan of Ingram in college, I remember being disappointed when the Saints passed on him with the 24th pick and took some DE from California I had never heard of (that guy turned out to be pretty good though) but was thrilled when the Saints traded back into the first round and selected Ingram with the 28th overall pick.
Ingram had a slow start in New Orleans, but finally broke out in his fourth season, rushing for 964 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2014. Ingram would be joined in the backfield by Alvin Kamara in 2017, a year that would prove to be the best of his career. His 1,124 yards and 12 TDs led the Saints back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Ingram would leave in free agency following the 2018 season but would return to the Saints via trade in 2021. Ingram would become the Saints all-time rushing leader in Week 10 of the 2021 season against the Titans, breaking the record previously held by Deuce McAllister. With Cam Jordan breaking the team sack record this season, the Saints had drafted their eventual franchise leading rusher and franchise leading sacker in the same draft in 2011.
Ingram’s best game of the 2022 season came in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ingram ran for 58 yards on just 10 carries and also caught two passes. Unfortunately, Ingram’s most memorable moment of the season would also come against the Bucs later in Week 13, when he stepped out of bounds early before picking up a first down that would have significantly increased the Saints’ chances of leaving Tampa with a win. This one play while hard to live with is miniscule in comparison to Ingram’s contributions to the Saints. Instead let’s remember this as the season as the season Ingram became just the 108th player in NFL history to surpass 10,000 yards from scrimmage, a feat he achieved in that same Week 2 game against the Bucs. We can also remember Ingram as ranking 12th in NFL history in yards per fumble, as Ingram has lost just 14 fumbles in his career over his 10,000+ yards and 2,100+ touches.
Mark Ingram is now the Saints’ all-time rushing leader pic.twitter.com/BJf5u3z3Rq— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 14, 2021
This season may also be remembered as Ingram’s last in New Orleans. Ingram is an unrestricted free agent and coming off the least productive season of his career. He has said he plans on coming back for 2023, and he certainly deserves to play his last seasons in New Orleans. But given the Saints salary cap situation, his status on the roster remains up in the air for 2023. Regardless of where Ingram plays in 2023, we should all wish him nothing but the best as he is truly one of the greatest players in Saints history.
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