Expectations for Saints RB Mark Ingram, a 2011 first-round pick, have declined since the start of last season. In fact, the Saints are just hoping he will stay healthy in his second season after struggling through injuries for much of his rookie year and failing to make a case for a greater share of carries during this year's training camp and preseason.
Despite that, the team is brimming with confidence about the arsenal of running backs it boasts.
The Saints are firmly committed to a committee approach with Ingram serving in what will mostly be a three-pronged attack. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles will continue to play major roles, and Chris Ivory and undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet will be involved, albeit to a lesser extent, when they are active on game day.
The Saints are one of only a handful of NFL teams that kept five running backs on the 53-man roster following cut-down day.
“It was so competitive at so many different positions with guys vying for a spot on this team and it’s a reason why we took five running backs,” QB Drew Brees explained. “(Cadet) can play. How do we find a way to keep this guy, even though it’s a little bit unusual?”
While they kept five running backs, it’s expected they will not have all five at their disposal in games. At least one will be inactive, and it could be Ivory in Week One given Cadet’s ability as a kick returner. Cadet could spell Sproles, who is practicing again after missing time with a knee injury, on kickoffs and punts.
“It’s a numbers game when you get to game day,” Brees said. “All of them can’t be active. … The great thing we have at the running back position is that they’re so versatile. Each one of them is great at certain things, but they really can do so many things. You plug any of them in in a lot of different situations and you know what you’re going to get out of them. You know you can count on them and I think they push one another as a competitive group.”