Yesterday, the Houston Texans traded their lead running back, Mark Ingram, to the New Orleans Saints along with a swap of late-round draft picks.
Saints fans and players rejoiced at the news of their former Pro Bowl halfback returning to the Crescent City. Ingram’s former backfield battery mate, Alvin Kamara, was especially thrilled to learn the news of Ingram’s return.
Meanwhile, another former Saint, now on the Texans, had a very different reaction.
Cooks is right. This is BS for him. Nobody should have to endure catching passes from Davis Mills. But it’s not BS for Ingram, and it’s not BS for the Saints. New Orleans has struggled with halfback consistency all season. When the Saints had Latavius Murray, there was no such concern. Murray could come in and keep Kamara’s legs fresh while also providing a serviceable ability to get tough yards in between the tackles. However, with Murray making the move to Baltimore in the offseason, the Saints no longer had that solid change-of-pace option. The Saints did have that option when Tony Jones Jr. and Dwayne Washington were healthy, but with both injured, trading for someone who is familiar with the system, loved by most of the players on the team, and was already in a crowded backfield on a team looking to tank for next year, just makes sense.
The Saints have been decimated by injuries and departures of top offensive players. Aside from Jones and Washington, there’s of course Michael Thomas, who has yet to see the field in 2021. Adam Trautman started the season on the injured reserve, and the team’s leading receiver from 2020 (excluding Alvin Kamara), Emmanuel Sanders, went up north to Buffalo in the offseason. Even Taysom Hill is having injury trouble now, and we know that Sean Payton likes to get wacky and hand the ball off to him sometimes.
Mark Ingram has suffered only one injury since 2017 — a calf strain in 2019, and he missed only one game. That durability will be a breath of fresh air in New Orleans, and for a team lacking in the weapon department on offense, someone who can not only stay healthy, but also handle a feature back workload (13.1 rushing attempts per game in 2021; Ingram recorded only 11.5 carries per game in his final year with New Orleans), will take tons of weight off Kamara’s shoulders. Don’t get me wrong. Kamara will still be the feature back and will still be the guy the team leans on to carry the offense, but it’s much easier to carry a team on your back when your legs are fresh.
Ingram is definitely not the same runner he was in 2018. In fact, he’s currently last place in the NFL in yards per carry among halfbacks with at least 50 carries.
However, moving from the Texans’ O-line, which currently ranks dead last in adjusted line yards (3.14) to the Saints’ offensive line which ranks 7th in that category (4.54) is clearly a massive upgrade that should help Ingram’s efficiency. I mean, we all know how loaded the Saints’ offensive line is with Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, and Cesar Ruiz. The Texans have Laremy Tunsil...and he’s on Injured Reserve.
Ingram clearly isn’t the great back he once was. In 2021, he ranks 32nd in defense-adjusted yards above replacement, right above Mike Davis. That’s not who you want to find yourself next to on any list, but efficiency aside, a back like Ingram is exactly what the Saints need right now.
It’s good to see Ingram back in a Saints jersey. It feels natural. Not to mention that Ingram is just 90 rushing yards away from being the Saints’ all-time leading rusher. Saints’ head coach Sean Payton has already said he expects Ingram to be an “important addition”, and that the former Heisman winner will be playing with the team this Sunday against Tampa Bay. Ingram won’t break the record this week. Not only will he need some time to re-adjust to the Saints’ system, but the Bucs have been one of the most stout run defenses in the NFL this year. At least, that was until they gave up 100 yards on 18 carries to Khalil Herbert last week. Nov. 7 at home against the Falcons though...we might see some history.
I’m excited to see what this upcoming NFL trade deadline, Nov. 2, has in store for us. There are several teams in need of running back help (Seattle, Baltimore, and the Chargers — Ekeler has never managed a feature role and Jackson, Kelley, and Roundtree aren’t exactly the most reliable) and several more teams looking to dump some running back talent (Colts — Marlon Mack; Broncos — Melvin Gordon; Texans — Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, and Rex Burkhead). Now that the halfback floodgates have opened, we could see several more around the corner. The Saints were smart to pick up Ingram before someone else did, and it could pay off in a big way.