Mark Ingram's role becoming clear

In his second NFL season, running back Mark Ingram’s role with the New Orleans Saints is starting to become more defined.

Ingram has had a season-high 67 rushing yards in each of the last two games. That’s silenced some critics who were skeptical about Ingram after a rookie season that was far from spectacular. If critics still remain, they might want to consider some other numbers that go beyond Ingram’s rushing totals.

Although Ingram isn’t as much of a receiving threat as Darren Sproles, or even Pierre Thomas, he’s making a very positive impact on the passing game. Ingram has played in a rotation with Sproles, Thomas and Chris Ivory.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Saints have only dropped back to pass 39.4 percent of the time when Ingram has been on the field. Compare that to 72.8 percent when the other running backs have been on the field.

But the Saints have been far more effective in the play-action passing game when Ingram has been in the game than they have when Thomas, Sproles and Ivory have been in the game.

With Ingram on the field, Drew Brees has completed 69.7 percent of his play-action passes and averaged 11.2 yards per attempt. The numbers aren’t even close with the other three running backs.

With Thomas in the game, Brees has completed 58.3 percent of his play-action passes and averaged 7.8 yards per attempt. With Sproles on the field, Brees has completed 57.1 percent and averaged 7.2 yards per attempt. When Ivory has been on the field, Brees has completed 50 percent of his play-action passes and averaged 4.3 yards per attempt.