Saints mailbag: How will Ingram, Robinson, Thomas split touches?

Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. There was enough good material to break it into two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 on Monday, and send your questions any time @MikeTriplett.

@MikeTriplett: It definitely sounds like Mark Ingram will be back in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions. And it definitely looks like he'll be sliding right back into a time share with Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, both of whom just had outstanding performances in last Sunday's victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As always - a good problem for the Saints, a frustration for fantasy football players. The good news, though, is that all of them have been thriving this year in more versatile, less predictable roles, while the entire run game has shown improvement.

Early on, it's possible that Ingram could be eased back into the action because he'll be a little rusty after missing four weeks with a broken hand - and the Saints have the luxury of doing so. Ultimately, though, I think Ingram could re-emerge as the slight leader in touches.

In the first two weeks, Ingram had 28 touches, Thomas had 19 and Robinson 14. Maybe Robinson's workload will increase slightly since he's been running so strong. But the pecking order should remain the same. And all should remain valuable for fantasy purposes, as Thomas will continue to catch a lot of passes, and Robinson should see some or most of the Saints' carries in their heavy goal-line packages.

They all need to be prepared, however, for those days where their workload drops for whatever reason (game situation, a guy with a hot hand, etc.), as we saw with Thomas in Week 4 at Dallas, for example.

@MikeTriplett: This was a popular question in response to the Saints' surprising release of fourth-round pick Khairi Fortt this week. Indeed, the Saints have had an abysmal track record when it comes to drafting linebackers over the years. The last real success was Mark Fields in 1995.

They've completely struck out during the Sean Payton era, though there haven't been many and they haven't invested anything higher than a third-round pick. Since 2006, they've drafted Marvin Mitchell, Stanley Arnoux, Martez Wilson, Nate Bussey, Rufus Johnson, Fortt and the only remaining hope, rookie Ronald Powell.

The Saints came close a couple times. If safety Malcolm Jenkins wasn't available in the 2009 draft, they would have gone with Brian Cushing instead. And they were leaning toward A.J. Hawk with the No. 2 pick in the 2006 draft when Reggie Bush fell in their laps.

Before that, the Saints got some mild production out of guys like Sedrick Hodge, James Allen, Courtney Watson and Colby Bockwoldt in the early 2000s.

@MikeTriplett: From the fans? Yes, obviously everyone has come under scrutiny from general manager Mickey Loomis to Sean Payton to Drew Brees to Rob Ryan, proving that honeymoons don't last long in the NFL. But from ownership? I doubt it. Loomis and the front office have a good long-term track record that won't be dented too much by a miss like fourth-round linebacker Fortt, who was surprisingly waived this week.

But Loomis himself has admitted often that when you live on the edge of the salary cap the way the Saints do, it greatly reduces your margin for error. You only make a couple big moves per year, and they have to work out. So it absolutely hurts when the Saints suffer as many misses as they have this year with Fortt and free-agent safety Jairus Byrd and, to a lesser extent, free-agent cornerback Champ Bailey (though they didn't invest much in him as a low-risk "flier.")

I doubt the Saints regret the Byrd signing, despite his early struggles and his season-ending knee injury. Everyone inside and outside the organization thought that would be a great fit - and still could be during the next five years. And I don't think the Saints regret the thinking behind any of the veteran players they let go. They knew Darren Sproles still had the potential to thrive, but that move was based more on their own running back depth, which has been delivering in a big way, too.

The first-round draft pick, Brandin Cooks, looks like a rousing success. And the jury's still out on the rest of the draft class. Remember, second-round cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste was always considered more of a raw, developmental project.

@MikeTriplett: I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints go back to Joseph Morgan after the bye week as they try to resurrect their downfield passing game. He might be their best bet to get more separation downfield, since the Saints haven't been able to hit on recent "shot plays" to Robert Meachem.

Morgan did get a chance in Week 1, and the Saints targeted him on two deep passes at Atlanta. But he didn't get that separation on either play, and both were incomplete. The first pass from Brees actually overshot him (see, it's not just about arm strength!), and the second was slightly underthrown and tipped away by the cornerback. Later in that game, Morgan also dropped a short pass.

I'm not sure if that's why Morgan hasn't played a snap since Week 1, or if the Saints simply prefer Meachem's blocking ability. Regardless, they typically only use four receivers during a game, so those two are pretty much an either-or proposition when Marques Colston, Cooks and Kenny Stills are healthy.