Mark Ingram readily acknowledges that his last game with the Saints could

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METAIRIE Johnny Hekker Jersey , La. (AP) — come Sunday, when New Orleans hosts the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game.But Ingram hasn’t given up on bucking conventional wisdom and remaining with New Orleans, even though his contract is expiring and the Saints will have to worry about signing younger, more productive running back Alvin Kamara to his second NFL contract in the next couple of years.Combined, Ingram and Kamara give the Saints one of the most formidable backfield tandems in the NFL — and an answer to the Rams duo of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson, which battered Dallas’ defense to the tune of more than 200 yards rushing last Saturday night.It is a formula that can potentially extend the life of a rusher’s career and promote winning — two things at the top of mind for Ingram, who has become a veteran locker room leader while trying throughout his eight-year career to help get the Saints as far as they’ve gotten this season.“We’ve got a good squad. I feel like we can do this type of thing for many more years,” Ingram said. “I’m not looking just to bail out of New Orleans.”The 29-year-old Ingram, a 2009 Heisman Trophy winner with Alabama and first-round draft pick in 2011, had far from his best season, statistically speaking, in 2018. He had to sit out the first four games because of an NFL suspension stemming from the use of a banned substance.During the Saints’ last 12 games, he rushed for 645 yards and six TDs, surpassing 100 yards in a game twice this season. He also caught 21 passes for 170 yards and one TD.Such numbers represent a considerable decline from the previous two seasons, during which Ingram eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in each.Yet coaches and teammates are quick to paint Ingram as one of those players whose impact goes beyond his own raw stats. They rave about his work ethic, leadership, loyalty and contagious Greg Zuerlein Jersey , overt passion for the game and his team.“He’s a great teammate. He cares,” Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said, adding that it’s apparent Ingram’s teammates “respect his game, how he plays, how he goes out and gives effort.“He’s always bringing his best,” Carmichael continued. “He just has a great relationship with so many guys.”Kamara has said Ingram’s presence “frees me up” when they are in the same formation and asserts that they always have exhibited “a genuine care and support for each other,” even though they are technically competing for opportunities to have the ball.“We look at it like, as long as we both know what we need to do, the team will be successful,” Kamara said.Coach Sean Payton has extolled the value having both rushers available to help reduce the physical burden on each of them.Ingram and Kamara together “has been pretty good for us,” Payton said. “It is much more difficult if you are limited to just one of those players.”Ingram’s first few seasons in New Orleans were marred by injuries and unmet expectations. But in recent years, Ingram has become a fan favorite, and now sounds as if he struggles with the notion of playing elsewhere.“I was drafted here. I met my wife here, my children were born here,” Ingram said. “Very rarely does anybody get to spend their career in one place. So, I love New Orleans. I love this team. I love this organization.“I’ve had encouragement and support from so many people in this organization, so I just think of all those people who have helped me when people have counted me out,” Ingram added. “It’s a lot of people in this building who have helped me get to this point.”Yet Ingram grew up keenly aware of the business side of the NFL. His father Jacob McQuaide Jersey , Mark Ingram Sr., was an NFL receiver with four teams: The New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers.“We’ll see what happens,” Ingram said, resigned to his uncertain future. “I hope we win a Super Bowl and hopefully everything works out.” Could fifth-round pick Micah Kiser be the heir to the throne at inside linebacker? Or could an unexpected challenger take over?" 2018 NFL Draft2019 Los Angeles Rams OffseasonWhat will the Los Angeles Rams do at inside linebacker?New,90commentsCould fifth-round pick Micah Kiser be the heir to the throne at inside linebacker? Or could an unexpected challenger take over?CDTNot many starting positions are likely to be up for grabs, but the inside linebacker position is one for the Los Angeles Rams.Going into the offseason, it was a foregone conclusion that ILB Mark Barron was going to be released, and that move ultimately came to fruition. Barron simply couldn’t remain healthy any longer and his salary suggested he was one of the top linebackers in football when in reality, he simply wasn’t. Barron played 570 downs of football in 2018, with SS Marqui Christian often subbing in on third-down passing situations, registering 348 snaps of his own.Looking forward at the inside linebacker position, the likely heir to the starting spot is 2018 fifth-round pick ILB Micah Kiser. Kiser appeared in 16 games last season, though all of his playing time was spent on special teams units. He only registered four total tackles in 2018, though when given the opportunity to play in the preseason, Kiser was very productive as he accumulated 26 tackles and two pass deflections in four games of action.Kiser is likely to fill the role that ILB Alec Ogletree once filled in Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense. Kiser is a much stronger defender at the point of attack and in the run game, though their similarities come with the ability to blitz effectively and lack some coverage ability. Kiser totaled 19 sacks in college Dominique Easley Jersey , often showing his ability to blitz in Virginia’s defense.With all that being said, Kiser has the athletic traits needed to be effective in coverage, he just needs to get the technical aspects down. Look at this comparison between Kiser and one of the leagues best coverage linebackers in Atlanta Falcons’ Deion Jones:If Kiser proves to be a liability in coverage, the Rams can address that by allowing second-round pick S Taylor Rapp onto the field in coverage situations. That might be their plan regardless, though it’s tough to say with certainty.The other flip of the coin is a potentially unexpected ILB in Clay Matthews. Matthews was signed to be an edge rusher here, though he could essentially do both if that’s what the Rams want him to do. Matthews played inside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers in 2014 and 2015, amassing 101 tackles, 30 tackles-for-loss, 17.5 sacks, 41 QB hits, two interceptions, and 12 pass deflections. He was clearly effective in that inside/outside role, and has the potential to do the same in this defense. If this is the route the Rams chose, Matthews would likely play inside on run stopping situations and would kick outside to the edge on pass rushing situations.My preference would be to start Kiser at inside linebacker and Matthews on the edge next to him, though this is something the Rams will need to decide over the next few months.

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