Mark Ingram has chance to shine

Mark Ingram is hoping last year's success carries over to a big year in 2014. (USATSI)
Mark Ingram is hoping last year's success carries over to a big year in 2014. (USATSI)

Mark Ingram is poised to have a big year in 2014, but it's up to him to make it happen. His career hasn't gone as planned so far, but he knows now is his chance.

Ingram is entering a contract year, and he's coming off a solid finish in 2013. The Saints are hoping to be more run-oriented this season, and Ingram could play a prominent role in making that happen.

"I'm really excited," Ingram told me following a training session at XPE Sports in South Florida. "I want to do anything I can to expand my role in the offense and prove that I can be that every-down back, that feature back that every team is looking for. I want to have the most success I can to help my team win.

"I think it's a good opportunity and a good situation. I just have to take advantage of that opportunity."

Ingram has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play since being a first-round pick in 2011. He's reached double digits in Fantasy points just eight times, including the playoffs last year, and he has only one 100-yard rushing performance. In his defense, he has just one game with 20-plus carries in his career, but he's also missed 11 games due to injury.

Last season, Ingram missed five games while battling a toe injury, but he came on strong toward the end of the year. He had 13 carries for 83 yards in Week 16 at Carolina and then 18 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown and a career-high three catches for 17 yards in the playoff win at Philadelphia.

The Saints aren't going to stop throwing, but with Darren Sproles traded away to the Eagles, Lance Moore cut and Jimmy Graham a potential holdout, the offense could change a little bit. Pierre Thomas is back as the likely starter, but the Saints could lean more on Ingram and Khiry Robinson with their ground game, along with Travaris Cadet helping to replace Sproles. Ingram is excited about that possibility.

"I think we proved it in the second half of the season, and we showed when we ran the ball we were most effective," Ingram said. "That's when we controlled the game and wore our opponents down. I think it makes sense. … You have to be smashmouth. You have to dominate on both sides of the ball. Being physical and having a good run game establishes your toughness."

Now, make no mistake, Ingram knows this is Drew Brees' team, and with Sproles gone, he wants to help in the passing game. Following his workout with noted NFL trainer Tony Villani at XPE Sports, Ingram spent extra time catching passes on the Jugs machine.

He wants to enhance his game, and he's working hard this offseason. He doesn't want to let this opportunity pass him by.

"He put in a lot of work last year and did great," Villani said. "He had about three or four games where he flashed brilliance. We're hoping he has a better chance to have five to eight games of brilliance this year."

For Ingram to achieve his goal, first he has to stay healthy. Then he has to prove he's a featured runner ahead of Robinson and even Thomas. If he can string together the five to eight games of brilliance that Villani is hoping for then Fantasy owners might buy in.

I would draft Ingram with a late-round pick as a No. 4 Fantasy running back. There's definitely potential for Ingram to shine, but he has to prove it first. The good thing is he's ready to show us all he can do it, and hopefully he will come through on his word.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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