Is Mark Ingram An All-Time Saints Top 5 Running Back?
Mark Ingram currently ranks fifth on the New Orleans Saints' all-time rushing list, but does that make him one of the five best running backs in team history?
If not, if gives him a great argument.
The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama, Ingram was selected by the Saints in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Because he won the Heisman Trophy, and because he was taken in the first round, there were high expectations for Ingram, but he was a bit of a disappointment in his first two years, averaging 588 yards a season, and only 3.9 yards-per-carry.
The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Ingram performed much better in 2013, averaging a career-high 4.9 yards-per-carry, but was still limited to just 386 rushing yards due to injury.
2014 saw Ingram have his best year, totaling 964 rushing yards, along with 9 touchdowns, both career-highs, while being named to the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career.
Last season, Ingram slipped to 769 rushing yards, but still averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry, the second best figure of his career.
Last Sunday, in the Saints' 35-34 win over the San Diego Chargers, Ingram moved past Rueben Mayes, and into fifth place on the all-time team rushing list, with 3,416 yards.
Does that, by itself, mean that Ingram is a top five Saints running back? No. But a deeper look shows that you could make a valid argument that Ingram should rank in the top five.
You probably won't get any argument from any Saints fan that Deuce McAllister ranks as the best running back in team history.
After Deuce, most people would put George Rogers second, and then Dalton Hilliard third, or Hilliard second and Rogers third.
After those guys, you could make a legitimate argument for players like Chuck Muncie, Mayes, Pierre Thomas, and Ricky Williams.
You can say that Muncie and Williams were more talented, and had better overall careers than what Ingram has had, so far, and you'd likely be correct, as Ingram has yet to have a 1,000-yard rushing season.
But we're talking about their careers as Saints players only, and Muncie, for all his talent, only had one 1,000-yard rushing season as a Saint, and only averaged more than 4.0 yards-per-carry in two of his four full seasons in New Orleans, while Williams had his best years in Miami.
Mayes? Well, there's no question that injuries cut short his career, but we're not playing the "what if?" game here.
Now, let's go back to the top three backs in Saints' history, McAllister, Rogers, and Hilliard and see how Ingram stacks up with them, in terms of yards-per-carry.
McAllister averaged 4.3, while Rogers finished at 4.3, and Hilliard at 3.7.
Ingram is currently averaging 4.3, the same as McAllister and Rogers, and more than half a yard more than Hilliard.
Because he was disappointing in his first two years, and because there were such high expectations placed on him, a lot of people probably are.
An argument used against Ingram is that he has yet to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Okay, that's fair.
Bu to also be fair, the Saints are a passing team. That's what they do. So to expect Ingram to have a 1,200-1,300-yard rushing season is not being fair.
In the Sean Payton era, only one Saints' running back has ever eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards, and that was McAllister, in 2006, Payton's first year, and he barely accomplished the feat, with 1,057 yards.
Barring injury, Ingram will likely finish 2016 in fourth place on the team's all-time rushing list, and third in rushing touchdowns.
Ingram may not have had that big career year yet, and he may never meet the high expectations many had for him when the Saints drafted him, but when you look at the numbers, and factor everything in, he probably does rank as one of the top five running backs in franchise history.