May 25, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (left) and running back Adrian Peterson (left middle) and running back Trey Edmunds (right middle) and running back Alvin Kamara (right) participate in running drills durin

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Saints RB coach Joel Thomas says other backs are hungrier now with Ingram suspended

Thomas says it's their time to rise up

Seth Dunlap
May 14, 2018 - 3:55 pm

Next man up.

That phrase has turned cliche' around the Saints locker room during the Sean Payton tenure.   It's something he, and the rest of the organization, preaches every year.   Whether a player moves on in free agency, or there's an injury, or an unexpected suspension -- it's time for the next man to step up.

The team's young stable of running backs will have their chance to do just that in the absence of Mark Ingram, who was suspended four games by the NFL for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.  Ingram and his legal team are going to fight the suspension, but the Saints are preparing as if he will miss the first quarter of the season.

Running backs coach Joel Thomas says his young stable of players is hungrier than ever before.

"I'd hope they are.  I think that's just the natural instinct in the competitor that hey I'm hungry and I'm coming out to work, all of the sudden now there's a little more window for me," Thomas said.  "I think they're going to do a great job.  They're young.  I look at it like this, they're kind of like a piece of clay, and they're not hardened.  They're not warped or anything, by all means.  We can mold them the way we that want our offense."

It's not just Ingram's production on the field that will be missed.  He was a vocal leader inside the locker room, somebody respected by younger backs looking to break into the league.  Thomas thinks that one of those younger players may naturally fill that role.

"As a coach you're always looking at it like, he maybe this is the time that someone can rise up.  Maybe their voice wasn't necessarily as outspoken.  Maybe they were a little more reserved, and now's the time somebody else can rise up now as well."

Perhaps one of those young players who can step up is rookie Boston Scott, who many projected as strictly a special teams contributor this season.  Thomas doesn't necessarily see it that way.

"He's got running back abilities.  Guys look at him, first of all and they just think he's short.  So, what's his redeeming quality?  He's got power, the way he's built.  He's got a knack for finding holes.  He can hide better than some guys, because of his height.   Catches the ball well out of the backfield, as well.   People keep comparing him to (Darren) Sproles, and there's some same qualities that he had there."

The Saints have a tough task to replace the over 96 yards of offense per game that Ingram delivered last year.  Maybe, just maybe, they have the group of players that is up to the task.



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