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Saturday, 28 May 2011 18:03

Mark Ingram should turbo charge New Orleans Saints running along with Bush, Ivory, Thomas

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TNew Orleans Saints he Dallas Cowboys were looking to upgrade their running back position, and had their eye on Mark Ingram in the NFL Draft.

"The Cowboys wanted to draft Mark Ingram if they had been able to make a trade with Jacksonville. Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas writes: "The Cowboys would have used their second-round pick and gotten back in the first round with the goal of getting Ingram.

Instead, they sat tight and wound up with tackle Tyron Smith and running back DeMarco Murray (third round). Considering the depth at tackle at the top of this draft and the difference between Ingram and Murray, Dallas would have been better off trading down to No. 16 and gotten Ingram. The Saints traded up with the Patriots and picked Ingram with the 28th selection in the first round.

As a team, the Saints collected just 1,519 yards (28th in the league) and 9 TDs (26th in the league) on the ground, averaging out to just 94.9 rushing yards per game. Only the Colts, Seahawks and Cardinals had a worse rushing attack in 2010.

You could blame that that on the fact they the Saints running back corps was decimated by injuries. But more importantly, the lack of production came from not having a true No. 1 go-to-guy on the ground.

Rookie Chris Ivory was that type of guy until he went down with a broken foot. Once Ivory, their leading rusher last season (5.2 yards per carry) took over, the Saints got much more production on the ground. In fact, they were 4-0 in games that Ivory either broke 100 yards or scored.

While most "experts" seem to be pointing towards the quarterbacks for potential rookie of the year winners, Ingram will be immediate success, taking pressure off Drew Brees (threw career-high 22 interceptions last season).

You will see Ingram getting the starts with Ivory and Pierre Thomas getting limited carries on third down and goal-line situations. Bush will be used as a slot receiver, lining up wide in certain situations.

When Ingram won the "NCAA Football 12" cover vote, he realized one thing: No matter who steps up to test his skills, he's not losing at his own game.

Ingram is a "gamer."

"I've been playing the game since middle school," said Ingram of the football game. "I've always been a gamer. I like to run the ball, run it, run it, then hit them with play-action I like coming out of the  backfield for passes because they usually don't cover the running back."

What was the strangest question asked Ingram at the pre-draft sessions with NFL teams?

"They asked me what's similar between the colors green and yellow?" said the rookie. "I said they were both kind of bright. That was my answer, but they never told me if it was right or wrong."

In recent drafts, many general managers have been afraid to fail with high-profile skill guys. If they bust drafting a left tackle or defensive end, they cankeep their jobs. But people remember the busts if you draft quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, and never let you forget. So now, the running back-needy teems in this draft took some kids in the fourth round, and if he never really pans out, the general manager will say, 'Hey, what did you expect? We took him in the fourth round!"

Ingram was a very good pick and should have been selected with one of the first 15 choices. He's a frightening runner in traffic and always finds the gaps that move the chains.

Sean Payton has never loved Pierre Thomas in the red zone, so Ingram will be the TD-maker here, as Ivory has much to prove returning from Lisfranc surgery. Thomas, like Bush, has pretty much proven his body doesn't hold up to full-time work but he'll get his 200 touches from scrimmage and Ingram will come in just under that.  Bush will be way under 200 touches.

Ingram sees himself as a role model.

"That's what it's all about," said the new Saint.  "I want to be a role model. I  always looked up to athletes when I was a kid,  guys like Michael Jordan, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, so if I can be a positive role model for kids and set a positive example for them to look up to, that's really special."

Ingram is being compared to Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time rusher,

"It's a great honor to be compared to Emmitt, but at the same time, that's a Hall of Fame rusher. That's the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. So I don't think it adds pressure to me. I actually don't think it's fair to him to be compared to me. I haven't even played a down yet in the NFL (laughs). He has the most yards in NFL history. I don't even have one."

There's no doubt that the Saints backfield (at the start of the season) will be rather crowded this season, but at least they have a true workhorse running back in Ingram..

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Ed Statonby Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.