For the last several weeks, Ingram has been out of action with a toe injury. But prior to that, Ingram had been the Saints starting RB, despite doing little to earn that honor. In 2013, Mark Ingram has rushed the ball 17 times for only 31 yards and no TDs. That works out to 1.8 yards per carry. Although New Orleans hasn't run much better in Ingram's absence, the other RBs each bring more to the running game than Ingram does.
The Saints will always look to pass before running the ball and in a year when New Orleans' offensive line is struggling, a RB who can pass protect is a valuable commodity. Without question, Pierre Thomas is a much better blocker than Ingram is. Playing Ingram in passing situations is doubly dangerous because it puts Brees at risk on passes, as well as allowing defenses to key on the run since passes are unlikely.
Of course, another alternative is to have the RB become a potential receiver. In this category, Ingram comes up short again. In two-plus NFL seasons, Mark Ingram has only caught 17 passes for 75 yards. While that production may be fine for some NFL offenses, it isn't nearly good enough in New Orleans. Through six games in 2013, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles have combined for 61 catches, 561 receiving yards, and three receiving TDs.
Although the Saints' offensive line isn't helping any of the RBs distinguish themselves in the running game, an undrafted free agent has begun to emerge in New Orleans. Khiry Robinson appears to be the latest undrafted offensive hidden gem for the Saints. In the loss to the New England Patriots, Robinson ran seven times for 53 yards and one TD. He is now averaging 5.3 yards per carry in 2013.
Some fans in New Orleans are speculating that the Saints may have already de facto benched Mark Ingram by making his toe injury an excuse for his benching. Others feel that the Saints are exploring trade opportunities for Ingram. I can't imagine New Orleans getting anything higher than a mid-round draft pick for the underachieving Ingram. But I could see Saints head coach Sean Payton using an injury as an excuse to keep Ingram inactive.
At 5-1 with the best record in the NFC, there isn't much for New Orleans to fix in its bye week. But the Saints may be considering the future of Mark Ingram in New Orleans. If Saints GM Mickey Loomis can't get a decent draft pick or current player for Ingram in a trade, then he should stay on the bench with the best seat in the house for the rest of the 2013 season.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of the New Orleans Saints. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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