Mark Ingram will miss the New Orleans Saints’ first four games following a suspension from the league for violating the NFL’s performing-enhancing substance policy. Of course, Ingram claims the substance was OK. Anyway, most teams likely would be reeling knowing they will be without a running back who has topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of the last two seasons.
But if you have as potent an offense as the Saints do, and one led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and reigning offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara, there is no reason to fret.
Good, if not better
After failing to run for more than 964 yards in any of his first five seasons, Ingram finally lived up to his promise while totaling 2,167 yards over the past two. He scored a career-high 12 touchdowns and also caught a personal best 58 passes in 2017.
Yes, that’s a great deal of production to lose in the first quarter of a season, but Kamara is even more of a dual threat who has no trouble running between the tackles. Kamara was a fantasy player’s dream as a rookie, rushing for 728 yards and gaining another 826 through the air. His 81 receptions were second on the team and his 14 touchdowns were a team best.
For the time being, the Saints don’t plan to reinforce their backfield, and that makes sense. Kamara is a top-tier back and new momentary backup Jonathan Williams gained 94 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. So it’s obviously not the end of the world from that standpoint.
They’re in good hands
With Brees in charge, there is no way he will let this team feel sorry for themselves or be defeated before the ball is snapped. He’s the ultimate leader who has thrown for at least 4,300 yards in each of his 12 seasons in the bayou and is a proven winner.
And there’s plenty of talent waiting on the receiving end of those yards that can more than make up for Ingram’s absence. Michael Thomas has 196 receptions in his first two NFL seasons, Ted Ginn caught 53 balls and had four touchdowns in his first season with the Saints and pick up Cameron Meredith hopes to bounce back from a lost 2017 season (knee injury) with the Chicago Bears by showing the 2016 form where he caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns.
Veteran tight end and Brees’ favorite Ben Watson is back after a season in Baltimore, so there are plenty of options to tide the Saints over until Ingram returns.
Who is in the way?
With home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns to begin the season, New Orleans should be big favorites in both. The Bucs are coming off a 5-11 season and have dropped their last two in New Orleans. Meanwhile, the Browns have won nowhere since Christmas Eve 2016.
Things get a little tougher after that with trips to Atlanta and the New York Giants before Ingram gets back. The Saints have dropped their last two on the road against the Falcons, but even with Ingram, it would be a serious challenge. The Giants are confident they can prove last year’s 3-13 season was a fluke, but until we see it, the verdict is still out.
As for the Saints without Ingram? They are deep enough, confident enough and good enough to not miss a beat.
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