The New Orleans Saints are not expected to have the services of running backs Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson when they travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers Thursday night.
Thomas missed Sunday's win over the Packers after sustaining injuries to his shoulder and ribs during the week 7 loss at Detroit. Robinson, meanwhile, injured his arm in Sunday's win, leaving Mark Ingram, Travaris Cadet and Edwin Baker, recently promoted from the team's practice squad, as the only available running backs.
Ingram, who only recently returned after missing nearly a month with a broken hand suffered in week 2, looks set to carry the load in the Saints' backfield for the next week or so. Thomas is tentatively expected to return in time for week 10, though that is not set in stone. Robinson's timetable for a return is unclear at this point, though his injury is not thought to be serious in nature. Given the short week at play, New Orleans will look to give their talented second-year runner every chance to recuperate in time for next week's clash with the San Francisco 49ers. Pierre Thomas is unlikely to play Thursday, and could miss at least another week.
Ingram has performed well since his return from injury, picking up right where he left off before going down with the hand ailment during the team's week 2 setback at Cleveland. The former Heisman trophy winner gouged the Packers' suspect rush defense to the tune of 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. For the 2014 season, Ingram has compiled 331 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns on 58 carries across 4 games. The 24-year-old has shown that he is capable of carrying the mail for New Orleans in a bell cow role.
Cadet remains a natural plug-and-play alternative option for Pierre Thomas in the Saints' passing game. Like Thomas, the 25-year-old excels as a receiver out of the backfield while displaying the versatility to split out wide and run routes similar to a possession receiver. On Sunday against Green Bay, Cadet caught 4 passes for 40 yards and now has 20 catches for 174 yards and a score on the season. Both he and Ingram should be able to hold down the fort while Thomas and Robinson are on the mend. Baker, along with fullbacks Austin Johnson and Erik Lorig, will be at the ready to help supplement the team's backfield workload.
With a big divisional showdown on the horizon and everything still up for grabs in the up-and-down NFC South, the Saints have a huge opportunity in front of them on Thursday night. Even though Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson are unlikely to play, the New Orleans backfield is in good hands with Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet able to step up to the plate.