Breaking Down Mark Ingram's Resurgence in New Orleans Saints Offense

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterJanuary 10, 2014

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) carries the ball during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram produced only 386 yards during the 2013 regular season in a limited role for head coach Sean Payton’s club.

But given the opportunity to see more touches during the Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the former first-round pick responded with 97 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Let’s breakdown Ingram’s tape from the Wild Card matchup, focus on the Saints zone schemes and discuss how the running back can impact the game plan in the NFL Divisional Playoffs versus the Seattle Seahawks.


Three Takeaways from the Tape

Before we get into the All-22 breakdowns, here's what I wrote down in my notes after watching the tape of Ingram versus the Eagles.


1. Vision in zone schemes  

Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) attempts to break the tackle of Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin (98) during the first half 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financ
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

I was impressed with Ingram’s ability to show patience in the zone schemes, find running lanes and then press the hole to get vertically up the field. The running back had a good feel for defensive pursuit, displayed some lateral quickness and set up inside defenders to bounce the ball to the edge of the formation.

Think of a running back who extends the line of scrimmage, makes one cut and squares his pads when he gets to the second level of the defense. That sells in Payton’s scheme.


2. Speed through the hole

I’m more focused on the burst/acceleration from backs when they get through the hole. Can they climb to the second level with speed and force the secondary to fill against the run?

You won’t see much hesitation from Ingram when you turn on the tape versus the Eagles. He was quick to identify running lanes and get downhill with a burst that allowed him to push the ball up the field. 


3. Ability to finish runs

As a defensive back, you better sink your hips/lower your pads versus Ingram, because he will put a shoulder under your chin.

Ingram runs hard on the tape and drops his pad level on contact. There were multiple times when I saw him showcase power and lower-body strength on first contact in the hole. And when he does get into the open field, Ingram will force the secondary to square him up to make the tackle.


Breaking Down the All-22 Tape

Using some examples from the All-22 coaches tape, let’s take a look at how the Saints featured Ingram versus the Eagles.


One-Back Zone (Crack)

NFL Game Rewind

With Ace/12 personnel on the field (2WR-2TE-1RB), the Saints run the zone scheme to the closed (strong) side of the formation with the wide receiver on an inside release to crack the strong safety. That forces the cornerback to use a “crack replace” technique (replace the safety as the primary edge support player) with Ingram pressing this run to the outside.

NFL Game Rewind

With the cornerback taking a vertical path up the field (instead of squeezing down to close the edge), Ingram can set up the defender, make one cut and push this run vertically down the field. That forces the free safety to take an inside-out angle to the ball to make this tackle after a positive gain.


Stretch (Lead) G/T

NFL Game Rewind

Out of Tank/22 personnel (1WR-2TE-2RB), the Saints run the Stretch G/T scheme. Block down on the edge, pull the closed side guard/tackle and lead up through the hole with the fullback versus the Eagles' 3-4 front.

NFL Game Rewind

With the inside linebacker scraping hard to the play side (and the tackle kicking out the edge defender), the Saints can wash the defensive pursuit past the hole. This creates an inside lane for Ingram to work to the second level.

NFL Game Rewind

As I said above, Ingram will drop a shoulder on defensive backs. Check out safety Nate Allen. He is too high on contact and allows Ingram to put a helmet in his chest at the point of attack after an explosive run.


One-Back Zone (Pistol)

NFL Game Rewind

Here’s a look at Ingram’s touchdown run versus the Eagles on the zone scheme (Pistol alignment) out of Posse/11 personnel (3WR-1TE-1RB). With the Saints showing a bunch to the open (weak) side of the formation, Ingram can get to the edge or use his vision to target the quick cutback lane.

NFL Game Rewind

This a good example of the finishing ability I talked about in my notes. Ingram gets downhill through the hole, drops his pads and creates leverage on contact to push the ball into the end zone for six points.


Can Ingram Play a Key Role vs. the Seahawks?

We all know Drew Brees has to play at a high level for the Saints to upset the Seahawks on the road. Think of three-deep beaters (sail route, inside seam, wheel, etc.) that can put some stress on the Seahawks' top-tier secondary.

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22:    Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hands the ball off to Mark Ingram #22 of the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lec
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Saints need to create a clean pocket versus the Seahawks front four to give Brees the time he needs to target Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and the rest of the talent New Orleans has at the offensive skill positions.

However, with Pierre Thomas still limited in practice, Ingram (along with Darren Sproles and Khiry Robinson) can allow the Saints to control the tempo and set up positive opportunities for Brees by producing in the run game.

Ingram played good football in the win over the Eagles last weekend. Now, let’s see if the running back can take advantage of another opportunity on the playoff stage and produce against one of the NFL’s top defenses. 


Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.