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Ingram legitimate, won't be 'No. 1' back

8/9/2014

Mark Ingram was outstanding in the New Orleans Saints' preseason opener Friday night, running the ball eight times for 83 yards and a touchdown. And it was no fluke.

Ingram came into this summer healthy, confident and determined to keep improving after finishing strong last season. And that was on display Friday night as he powered his way through several missed tackles against both the Rams' first-string and second-string defenses.

"Mark just seems so hungry, like he's starving to have that break out," offensive tackle Terron Armstead said, according to The Advocate. "It's safe to say he picked up exactly where he left off -- and maybe another step to it."

Furthermore, the Saints' entire run game has looked great this summer after a strong finish across the board in 2013. And Ingram was quick to credit the guys up front, who played well even without Pro Bowl guards Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans in the lineup Friday.

"We just wanted to give ... the team confidence in the run game, that we could go out there and be physical and be smash-mouthed and pound it on anybody," Ingram said. "It was good to get off to a fast start."

However, Ingram isn't about to run away with all of the Saints' carries this season.

To the benefit of the Saints -- and to the chagrin of fantasy owners -- this remains one of the NFL's deepest backfields.

Second-year pro Khiry Robinson also looked very good in Friday's 26-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams, with five carries for 23 yards. And it was Robinson who scored the Saints' first touchdown (a 1-yarder in the second quarter) before Ingram broke loose for a 22-yard score later in the second quarter.

And don't forget about veteran Pierre Thomas, who sat out Friday night with an undisclosed injury. Although the Saints haven't defined any specific roles for their running backs, I get the sense that Thomas will take over more of that nickel-back role that Darren Sproles used to play, since Thomas is the best pass-catcher and best pass-protector among the Saints' running backs.

Although the Saints may ride the hot hand from time to time, I expect similar overall production from all three backs this season.

So my fantasy advice would be to not reach too high for any of them expecting a "No. 1" back to emerge. But feel free to pounce on all of them if they fall, since all three could provide good value if the Saints' run game keeps producing at its current level.