As he prepares to return to play calling duties for the Saints, Sean Payton is launching a mission to ratchet up the Black and Gold’s run game. Payton will be looking to correct a disturbing stat from last season: New Orleans was 29th in the league in rushing attempts.
Now, all eyes are on a certain Heisman Trophy winner to prove his worth and shoulder much of that responsibility.
The Saints 2011 first round draft pick Mark Ingram is on notice that it’s time to deliver.
“We’ve got high expectations for Mark, and I know he does as well for himself. He’s in great shape right now. I know he’s anxious in being healthy and probably in going into his third year. He’s in as good of shape as he’s ever been. I expect him to be a big part of what we do running the football,” says Payton.
A more aggressive rushing game will no doubt benefit Drew Brees – who had an un-characteristically high number of picks last season.
He’s voicing nothing but confidence in the University of Alabama product:
“Every time he has had a number of carries or those opportunities with a more substantial role, he has always taken great advantage of it. He has been impressive,” says Brees.
It’s a task Ingram says he’s ready for and anxious to tackle. This is the first time in his pro career that Ingram has had a healthy off season.
Ingram spent the entire month leading up to training camp, in Florida, preparing, with two-a-day workouts.
“I want to have the best year I’ve had as a pro, help us succeed and win championships. That’s my ultimate goal,” says Ingram as he jogged off the field after the Saints first Training Camp practice on Friday. “I think with Coach Payton back, it will be more balanced. The year they won the Super Bowl, they were top 10 in the league – or close – in running the ball. Coach Payton knows how important it is to run the ball. It’s going to be a good thing. We run the ball well. It’s going to open up our offense for Drew, and the receivers and our deep passing game. So, when we’re balanced and working together, that’s when we’re most effective.”
In 2012, Ingram finished first for the Saints in rushing, carrying 156 times for 602 total yards. He averaged 3.9 yards-a-carry and posted a team-high five rushing touchdowns. Teammates voted Ingram as the 2012 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award after his successful comeback from knee and toe surgeries.