In the 2010 football season, Alabama had running backs Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy on the roster – in that order on the depth chart. As NFL teams hold offseason workouts, Lacy has had the most accomplished pro career, even though he was the last of the trio to reach the NFL.
Lacy earned the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award last season. In 15 games for the Green Bay Packers, he ran for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns on 284 carries.
“I really don’t see a ceiling on him at all because he has some of the gifts of the greats,” said Sam Gash, Lacy’s position coach in Green Bay. “He’s big. He’s fast. He’s athletic. He has good hands. He wants to work. I really don’t see a ceiling for him right now and I don’t think you will for a really long time because he’s a young soul, a young spirit. He comes out every day and you get this vibrant kid who comes out ready to work.”
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Ingram’s contract during the offseason and Richardson is coming off a season in which he was traded and averaged 3.0 yards per carry.
Ingram ran for 3,261 yards and 42 touchdowns from 2008 through 2010 for the Crimson Tide, including 1,658 yards and 17 TDs his 2009, when he won the Heisman Trophy. In three seasons with the Saints, Ingram has 1,462 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Richardson ran for 3,130 yards and 35 touchdowns for Alabama from 2009 through 2011. With Ingram out of the way, he ran for 1,679 yards and 21 TDs in 2011. He almost reached 1,000 rushing yards and ran for 11 touchdowns in his rookie season with the Browns. But Cleveland traded him to the Indianapolis Colts two games into the 2013 season, and he ended up with 563 yards and three TDs in the transition, giving him 1,513 rushing yards in his two seasons.
At Alabama from 2010 through 2012, Lacy rushed for 2,402 yards and 30 touchdowns. With Ingram and Richardson gone in 2012, Lacy ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide in 2012.
The Saints used a first-round pick on Ingram, who went at No. 28, in the 2011 draft, and Richardson went at No. 3 to the Browns in 2012. Lacy was the 61st player picked in the 2013 draft, the next-to-last selection in the second round.
Ingram said he understood why the Saints did not pick up his contract option, which would have paid him $5.2 million for the 2015 season. New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis said that figure was out of line with the current NFL salary structure.
“Like they said, they really like me as a player,” Ingram said. “Just the number was a little high for what a running back gets on the free-agent market.”
After getting over a toe injury that limited him early last season, Ingram ran for 145 yards against the Dallas Cowboys in a November game and picked up 97 in a playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s motivation,” Ingram said of his contract status. “I’m coming up on a contract year. I’m an unrestricted free agent after this year, so we’ll see what happens.”
Richardson and the Colts think he will have a better year after going through a full offseason with Indianapolis. Last season, his top game for Indianapolis was 64 yards on 19 carries.
“I feel way more fluid, even with the timing,” Richardson said. “I didn’t know the snap count last year until the fourth week. When I had to step in and start when Ahmad (Bradshaw) went down, it was hard. I didn’t have the chance to learn. Why are we doing this? What am I looking at this linebacker or that linebacker on the backside? I just had to know where I was running. I didn’t know the full reasons. With the timing, it’s way easier now.”
The Colts want Richardson to be part of a power running game to complement rising-star QB Andrew Luck.
“Trent expects what we expect, and that’s greatness,” Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson said. “We all have expectations for Trent, and he has expectations for himself. They’re for him to be great. He has expectations of himself to be great.
“He’s always been at the top of the rung every time he’s played. (Last year), there were areas in Trent’s game where he did show up and help us in key situations.”
While Ingram and Richardson hope to do more in 2014 than they did in 2013, Lacy wants to put up back-to-back big years in his second year in the NFL.
“Just to try to continue to do the same thing,” Lacy said. “I’m not going to try to do no more than I did last year and no less. A lot of guys are expecting a lot out of me, and I’m just going to try to do that.
“I feel more comfortable now. I’ve had a chance to be in the offense. I made a lot of mistakes last season. I’m way more comfortable with those mistakes that I made and just feel as though I’m more comfortable this year than coming in last year.”
The Colts have OTAs Monday through Thursday. The Saints have mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday. The Packers have OTAs Tuesday through Friday.