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Pierre Thomas tops New Orleans Saints' RB depth chart

Mark Ingram has enjoyed his first injury-free offseason since the New Orleans Saints traded up to select him with the No. 28 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Staying healthy hasn't translated to a promotion, however.

Pierre Thomas was listed atop the Saints' unofficial depth chart Monday, with Ingram second and Darren Sproles third.

Sproles' spot is misleading; he's likely to lead the backfield in snaps as Drew Brees' sidecar in obvious passing situations.

Thomas widely is recognized as one of the NFL's best screen-pass specialists, but he's also an elusive tackle-breaker as a runner. Only a handful of active running backs boast a higher yards-per-carry average than Thomas' 4.8 YPC.

Saints coach Sean Payton still has high expectations for Ingram, who will split snaps with Thomas in base personnel packages.

Although Ingram does own the skill set to succeed as a foundation back in a ball-control offense, it's evident after even a cursory glance at 2012 game film that he's a mismatch in the Saints' pass-heavy attack. He doesn't have the lateral agility, quickness or post-catch elusiveness to keep up with Sproles or Thomas as a receiver. More problematic, the offense grinds to a halt when Ingram enters the game because his presence telegraphs the play-calling for the defense.

Expect Payton to place more of an emphasis on the ground game this season. Just don't expect Ingram to get the opportunity to justify his first-round selection.

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