Where Does RB Chris Ivory Fit On the 2011 Saints?

Chris Ivory

This past Sunday at Jacksonville was a pleasant surprise, wasn’t it?

After a 2010 campaign that saw the loss of an effective run game, many Saints fans were hoping for a new offensive style going into 2011.  Over the course of the first three weeks of the season, there were glimpses of the potential that was the New Orleans backfield; however, in Week Four, the “Three-Headed Monster” finally displayed its effectiveness.  The run offense for the Saints had its coming-out party against the Jaguars this past weekend, carrying the ball 34 times (carries by Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Drew Brees, and Jed Collins) for 177 yards and a TD while averaging 5.2 yds/attempt. 

With Brees having an “off” day at the QB position (351 yards aren’t too shabby, but one TD, two INTs, and an 82.7 QB rating aren’t exactly anything to brag about), the rush offense was asked to take over the contest, and that they did.  The newly acquired Sproles lead the charge, getting seven carries for 75 yards, and Ingram and Thomas followed him through the O-line (Ingram and Thomas had 55 and 36 yards respectively.).  It was a nice change of pace for the “Who Dat Nation.”  For once, the Saints looked to have a “balanced offense,” something that analysts and fans alike were hoping to see over the course of this season.

With that being said, there is a factor from the 2010 campaign that is looking to make his mark once again in New Orleans:  Chris Ivory.  Last year, Ivory assumed the role of “bruiser” in the Saints’ backfield as he lead the Saints in rushing yards with 716.  Add on a 5.2 yds/carry average and five TDs, and one could say that Ivory did a decent job of replacing an injured Thomas for the Black and Gold.  In the offseason, though, the Saints made a few interesting moves with their RB corp.  At this point, everyone knows how the Saints went about their summer.  Between the letting go of former first-round pick Reggie Bush, the drafting of Ingram, and the signing of Sproles, it was clear that the Saints had an improved backfield in mind.  At that point, many were wondering where the young Ivory would fit in; however, a stint on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list due to lisfranc injury and sports hernia surgery has left the question unanswered…until now.

In two weeks, the Saints will have an awkward decision to make.  In Week Six of the season, Ivory will be eligible to come off of the PUP list and join the squad once again.  According to head coach Sean Payton, Ivory is “bursting with energy and health now” (NOLA.com).   So now the question:  where exactly does the Saints’ 2010 leading rusher fit on the new roster?

My prediction:  he doesn’t.

Let’s get one thing straight right now:  do not expect Ivory to be getting that many carries this season.  If anyone honestly believes that Ivory will be stealing attempts from the likes of Ingram, Sproles, and Thomas, then he/she clearly has not been watching this squad over the last four weeks. 

So what exactly could the Saints do with him? 

My guess is one of three things.  They could make him a member of the special teams for kickoff coverage/punt coverage.  Another option is to stick him on the practice squad in case Thomas or Ingram, who have both had injury concerns in the past, happens to go down for an extended period of time.  Or, one final option is to simply trade him.  An every-down back is always a commodity in the NFL, and I’m sure there are some teams in the league (Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Indianapolis are the first ones who come to mind) who would be willing to exchange a late-round pick for him.  Outside of these options, I really don’t see much hope for last season’s young runner.

In a sense, one cannot help but feel sorry for Ivory.  Only a year ago, he was a household name in New Orleans; now he is simply a memory.  If it weren’t for his preseason injury issues, Ivory may have had a place on this 2011 roster to call his own. 

Now, he’s simply going to be fighting to stay relevant in the cruel world that is the National Football League.

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