Mark Ingram’s PED suspension will leave the Saints dangerously shorthanded at the running back position for the first four games of 2018.
The combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara gave the New Orleans Saints one of the most productive rushing attacks in football last season. Unfortunately, the Saints are going to need to rely on Kamara alone for the first four games of the 2018 NFL regular season.
Ingram will miss the first four games due to a violation of the league’s PED policy. The suspension could have a major impact on the Saints’ ability to compete in a very tough NFC South. The former Alabama running back will miss home games against Tampa Bay and Cleveland and road matchups at the Falcons and Giants. In particular, taking on the Buccaneers and Falcons without Ingram’s services could prove difficult for Sean Payton’s team.
Playing without Ingram will put a ton of pressure on Kamara to pick up the slack. He led the team with a rushing average of 6.1 yards per attempt last season, but he wasn’t asked to shoulder the load alone. Ingram’s 230 carries dwarfed Kamara’s 120 total rushing attempts. Kamara workload early in season will increase significantly without Ingram in the backfield.
In fact, the Saints may be forced to find reinforcements for their backfield in free agency. Currently, former seventh round pick Daniel Lasco is listed as the team’s third string running back. It’s hard to imagine Payton and company going into the season with him as the only alternative to Kamara on the roster. Don’t be surprised to see New Orleans sign a veteran to provide more support in the next week or two.
Drew Brees and the passing game may also be counted on to pick up the slack. Payton would like to strike an equal balance between running and throwing to preserve his veteran quarterback, but he’ll throw every down if that’s what is required to win without Ingram in the lineup. That could give Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn the chance to post massive numbers during the first month of the 2018 season.
Losing Ingram for four games isn’t a death-blow to the Saints’ hopes for 2018, but it’s not a way to get the team off to the best start possible. Ingram’s suspension will put the rest of the Saints offense under a lot of pressure to bank some early wins without him. In the end, Ingram’s suspension could cost New Orleans valuable playoff position before the race for the postseason really begins.