New Orleans Saints: How Does Mark Ingram Suspension Affect Team?

Derick E. Hingle -- USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have had a pretty good offseason ahead of the 2018 season, but they got some disheartening news in early May when running back Mark Ingram was suspended for the first four games of the year due to a substance abuse policy violation. The defending NFC South champions have already been hard at work to replace their leading rusher from the 2017 season.

Ingram, who rushed for a career-best 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, is just starting to hit his stride in his career. However, if he is going to outdo his 2017 season, he will have to do it in just 12 games. That means a lot of the rushing duties will be put on the shoulders of 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara.

Kamara, who the Saints stole in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft after trading their 2018 second round pick to the San Francisco 49ers, rushed for 728 yards and eight scores while notching 826 receiving yards and five more scores. While many believed Kamara would be the workhorse for the Saints in 2018, they certainly did not think he would have to do it while a veteran like Ingram was sitting on the sidelines.

Luckily for Kamara, he will have some help in avoiding a sophomore slump after New Orleans signed veteran backs Shane Vereen and Terrance West.

Tim Heitman — USA TODAY Sports

Vereen has yet to have a breakout season on the ground for either the New England Patriots or New York Giants, but he has certainly proven to be a weapon in the receiving game. This will turn out to be a good thing for the Saints after two of their top four receivers were Kamara (826) and Ingram (416).

West ought to fill in Ingram’s ground game role despite not playing a vital role for the Baltimore Ravens last year. When he is healthy and on the field, he is a stout back who rushed for over 1,400 yards in the two seasons in which he played at least 10 games (2014 and 2016).

If the two veteran running backs produce like the Saints are hoping, the team could even look to put Mark Ingram on the trade block and listen to some offers for the eight-year back out of Alabama. While that may be a controversial decision for the former Heisman Trophy winner and someone who just rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back years, it might be a necessary one if the Saints are going to look towards the future.