HOUSTON -- He glides behind the line of scrimmage as the ball is hiked. Making a quick move to get to the second level of defense, his teammates cheer as he works towards the end zone.
Mark Ingram II might not be the biggest running back in the NFL, nor the fastest. He's a product of the combination of his talent and the right scheme.
Can this all fit together to make him successful once again now that he's with the Texans?
So far, he looks like the 2019 version of himself rather than the 2020 edition.
"I feel healthy," Ingram said Saturday after practice. "I feel strong, fast, explosive and I'm just ready to play and do the best I can do to help the team win games.”
Entering his 11th season, Ingram is trying to prove his value to coach David Culley once more. If anyone knows what the upside is to having a 31-year-old veteran in the backfield, Culley would be the first.
In both 2019 and 2020, Ingram was a member of a rushing attack in Baltimore that finished as the league’s best. In his first year of a three-year contract, Ingram was the leading man behind MVP QB Lamar Jackson.
He totaled 1,018 yards that year and average 5.0 yards per carry.
The following season, his carries diminished. With the emergence of rookie J.K. Dobbins, plus the success of Gus Edwards, he was demoted to the third running back role, tallying just 299 yards.
He’d be released following the team’s playoff loss to Buffalo in January.
Ingram was dealing with a lingering ankle injury starting at the midseason mark of last year. He's now back at full strength for the start of the new campaign.
"I think just not having as much wear on my body last year, being able to go into the offseason healthy, being able to train hard, being able to train hard, get better conditioned, put myself in position to come out here and put my best foot forward, I feel really good coming into this year," Ingram said.
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This will be Ingram's third team in four years. At each stop, he has transitioned from being a lead back to being a mentor. In New Orleans, he provided wisdom to Alvin Kamara. In Baltimore, Dobbins took notes while setting the Ravens' rookie rushing record.
Maybe now Phillip Lindsay - who has credentials of his own as he comes over from Denver - can follow suit as the hopeful breakout star at the position.
Lindsay said that he watched Ingram's early success when he was in elementary school. Both now consider it special their paths have crossed at this point their careers.
“It's a blessing," Ingram said. "Thanks to God for a long career and great health and I still feel good going into my 11th year. It's a blessing.”
Culley praises Ingram for his work ethic, calling him a player who "brings it everyday.'' Most of all, he understands what the plan is for rebuilding the franchise in the right direction.
"He's the same guy every day," Culley said. "Sometimes I like to ... feel like when he's in practice, he's an extension of me because he brings it every day. He knows what I'm all about."
Ingram is one of 29 new offensive players joining the roster. He'll be one of the leaders asked to take over a backfield that finished 31st in rushing during 2020.
Can he live up to the expectations? Runs like the one on Saturday could show "Big Truss" is back - though he won't be doing it alone.
"We have a great group of guys who have played football and done it at a high level for a long time from Rex (Burkhead) to D.J. (David Johnson) to Phillip (Lindsay), even Dontrell (Hilliard), even Buddy (Howell)," Ingram said. "We got Scottie (Phillips), too.
"It makes the team better. It makes the group better and it's something that you can thrive on.”
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