Lamar Jackson’s recruiting power certainly had some pull with running back Mark Ingram II.
Ingram had interest in returning to New Orleans, where he spent the first eight years of his career, but he kept an eye on Baltimore throughout the process.
Asked whether playing with Jackson in the Ravens’ anticipated run-heavy offense was appealing, Ingram said “1000 percent.”
“That was very interesting and something that really caught my attention,” Ingram said in Friday’s introductory press conference.
“Just to have the opportunity to be in an offense that runs the ball and have Lamar with his run-pass option abilities. To bring my game to this offense and help this team, I’m excited about it.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh said it already feels like Ingram has been a Raven for a long time, and Ingram said, after being showered with love upon his Baltimore arrival, he felt the same way.
Ingram’s physical, downhill running style is a perfect complement to Jackson’s dynamic speed. Opponents caught looking too long at Jackson will get run by, or through, by Ingram. If they focus too much on stopping Ingram, Jackson can zip past them on the outside.
With a mixture of power up the middle and speed to the outside, the Ravens’ new offense can give opposing defenses major problems on the ground.
“I think it’s going to be dangerous; I think we’re going to be explosive,” Ingram said. “I think we’re going to change the game.”
The Los Angeles Chargers showed in the wild-card playoffs that once they were able to slow Baltimore’s running backs, they could hone in on Jackson. Jackson struggled to find space to run (nine carries, 54 yards), fumbled three times and completed just 14 of 29 passes for 194 yards.
“I’m here to help him excel, take some pressure off him,” Ingram said. “I think we’re going to do great things together.
“We’re going to work to have the best running game in the league year in and year out, the best backfield in the league year in and year out.”
In Baltimore, Ingram projects as the team’s clear top running back – a role he didn’t have throughout much of his time in New Orleans. Since 2011, he shared duties with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Thompson, Tim Hightower and Alvin Kamara, respectively.
The Ravens will still definitely roll in Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon next season, but a starring role in a physical, run-heavy offense was a major draw.
“The style of offense, the identity of this team is very appealing to me,” he said. “The opportunity to carry the ball and get into a flow, get into a rhythm … their vision for the offense was very appealing to me.”
On the flip side, Ingram’s relative moderate usage so far in his career is a plus for he and the Ravens moving forward. Ingram is 29 years old and many folks will tell you running backs hit a wall at 30 (though Frank Gore and many others would disagree).
Ingram has averaged 165 carries per season and has 1,321 overall carries. For the sake of comparison, Le’Veon Bell is 27 years old and has averaged 246 carries per season with 1,229 overall. Is it better to be a little older but have less wear and tear?
Ingram seems to be getting stronger with age. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry over his first five seasons and 4.9 yards over the past three.
“Experience has been good for me,” Ingram said. “I still feel good, I feel healthy and I feel strong and I feel like my best football is ahead of me. I mean that. I feel like I can play this position at a high level for a long time.
“I plan to do that because this organization believes in me. I want to make sure I prove them right.”