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Mark Ingram poised for breakout in Saints' offense

If you don't have access to NFL Preseason Live, you are missing out on the Mark Ingram renaissance this month.

A draft flop to date, the No. 28 selection in 2011 is averaging 7.1 yards on 21 preseason carries, leading all NFL backs with a gaudy 4.90 yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus.

Going back to Week 15 of last season, Ingram has rushed for 397 yards on his last 65 carries (6.1 YPC) in a Saints uniform.

It's not just the numbers. It's the authoritative fashion in which Ingram is running that has had our antennae raised since the preseason opener.

As you can see in the 17-yard dash to the right, Ingram is displaying patience, vision, decisiveness, balance and explosion. He's accelerating through holes and breaking tackles on runs that would have gone for two or three yards in years past.

Along with Eddie Lacy of the Packers, Ingram has been the NFL's most impressive runner on preseason game film. Ingram's summertime surge is reminiscent of Ryan Mathews' emergence last August, serving notice that a talented back with a first-round pedigree had finally put it all together after battling nagging injuries early in his career.

Beyond the gaudy stats and streamlined style, Ingram stands to benefit from Darren Sproles' absence.

Ever since he was drafted to a roster that also boasted premier passing-down backs such as Sproles and Pierre Thomas, Ingram has been marginalized to obvious run situations. That usage pattern has allowed defenses to key on him as an obvious candidate to touch the ball whenever he's on the field.

Now that there's some overlap in skill sets among Ingram, Thomas and hard-charging tackle-breakerKhiry Robinson, Sean Payton can tie defenses in knots with less predictable personnel packages.

In addition to being earmarked for the primary early-down role, Ingram expects to be a bigger factor in a pick-your-poison passing attack. This 23-yard touchdown reception against the Titans suggests Payton will have no reason to remove Ingram purely for down-and-distance purposes.

All of the available data points to a breakout year in a contract season. Ingram is set up to play a valuable role in an offense poised to threaten the Broncos as the NFL's most dominant.

The "Around The League Podcast" reviews all of the action from Week 3 of the preseason. Get it while it's hot!

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