The LA Chargers have one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league in Austin Ekeler, who they inked to a really reasonable four-year contract last offseason. Behind Ekeler, though, the depth gets a bit shaky.
Justin Jackson has the potential to be a really good RB2 but simply cannot stay healthy. Joshua Kelley was drafted in the fourth round last year to provide competition for that job and outside of Week 1, was downright awful.
In fact, with Kelley having the worst yards per attempt and running back DVOA last season, it is safe to say that he was the worst running back in the league. That does not mean that he won’t get better, but with a new coaching staff, Kelley might not have very much time to prove that he can be productive.
There is the possibility of the LA Chargers drafting another running back late in the 2021 NFL Draft, but there are also cheap free agent options that the team may explore — none more intriguing than Mark Ingram.
Why the LA Chargers should take a look at Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram is on the wrong side of 30 and anyone that consistently reads my work here on Bolt Beat knows that I do not love bringing in older free agents, especially running backs. It is worth noting though that Ingram does not have as many miles on his legs as a traditional 31-year-old running back.
Ingram has been a rotational back for most of his career. Ingram may rank fifth in active runners in rushing attempts, but for comparison’s sake, he has only 182 more attempts than Ezekiel Elliott. He is also coming off a season with only 72 attempts, so he should be relatively fresh.
But why Ingram? Especially when there is a slew of cheap running backs out there that could come in and help fill out a running back rotation. The main answer to the question is the new offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi.
Lombardi and Ingram shared six seasons with each other in New Orleans and when Lombardi went to Detroit to be the offensive coordinator he tried adopting an offensive style similar to the one in New Orleans. That probably won’t fully be the case in LA, but the Chargers certainly will have some offensive inspiration from Sean Payton.
That connection alone makes Ingram a target. Austin Ekeler is still the RB1 and will get most of the snaps, but it is value having a veteran running back who is not only familiar with the offensive style and running scheme but is experienced in being in a committee with other dual-threat backs.
Austin Ekeler is not great in short-yardage attempts while Jackson and Kelley are too inconsistent. Ingram could be that guy and the Chargers could even toy around with some 2 RB formations. The Chargers ran 2 RB formations 13% of the time last season, the Saints ran it 20% of the time.
Ingram presents little to no risk as well. The veteran running back is not going to get anything more than a one-year, $1-2 million deal, with $2 million being the absolute ceiling. Personally, I would rather spend that small cap space on a veteran like Ingram than waste more draft capital on a running back after drafting one last year.
If Kelley continues to regress then draft a running back in 2022. For now, someone such as Mark Ingram would be more than enough for the LA Chargers.