White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – Mark Ingram has a decent appreciation for his preseason debut this year, an eight-carry, 83-yard, one-touchdown battering against the Rams in a 26-24 New Orleans Saints victory on Friday night in St. Louis.
But to overly bask in what happened last week would be to miss the mark, Ingram said.
"I just want to keep improving," he said. "I know it's a preseason game and it matters, but I'm just trying to keep improving and keep getting better. And then when the regular season kicks in, keep building on a successful preseason. Take that into the regular season and have a great regular season.
"It matters and I'm excited, but I know what's coming up and what we have to do to be successful in the regular season."
And if the Saints are to have a successful running game this year, and improve on last year's average of 92.1 yards per game, it's likely that Ingram, who's entering his fourth season, will have a large say in the prosperity.
He ran for 386 yards and a touchdown on 78 carries in a regular season that was interrupted by injuries. Notable, though, was that he ran for 103 yards on 16 carries in the final two regular-season games, then added on 146 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in New Orleans' two playoff games.
He was particularly effective in the 26-24 victory in Philadelphia, running for 97 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the first road playoff victory in franchise history.
But with no guarantee that the momentum will carry over, Ingram began anew the process of being a healthy, improved player this offseason. From that standpoint, the preseason opener – which featured a squared-shoulders Ingram, making decisive cuts and powering through tackles, and showing shiftiness and a higher gear on his 22-yard, cutback touchdown run – was a nice test run for Ingram.
The Saints totaled 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
"It was a good start," he said. "We wanted to come out as a group and get off to a fast start, so I think what we started out with was great. We looked at the film and there were a lot of things we can correct and keep getting better at.
"(I'm) learning just to trust my eyes, don't question myself. If I make a mistake just correct it when I get to the film room. Be patient and just hit (the hole). When you make a decision, just hit it."
That focus is what Ingram displayed the final four games last season, and what he hopes to open with this season.
"(It's) just me trusting the scheme, the linemen doing a great job of getting a great push off the ball, getting up to the second level and creating holes and seams for us to run through," he said. "So it's a combination of trusting the scheme and them going out there and executing, (and) I think that's the results you're going to get.
"I am feeling strong, feeling healthy. I've just got to keep it going. This is my fourth year and I've grown a lot each year as a player. I've just got to continue to improve."