Former Alabama running backs Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram had productive seasons in the NFL in their own respect in 2016.
Henry had what he called a “good development year” in his rookie campaign, while statistically Ingram had the best season of his six-year career.
Henry, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, rushed for 490 yards and five touchdowns on 110 carries in a backup role behind veteran DeMarco Murray, the AFC’s leading rusher.
“I had probably about 250 less carries, so I feel a lot better than I did last year,” Henry told reporters after last season’s 24-17 win over the Houston Texans in the Titans’ regular-season finale. “Just a lot of learning from good guys.”
Last season at Alabama, Henry shattered numerous school and SEC records in a year where he rushed for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 attempts.
Henry’s ability to adapt to a complementary role in the NFL also won his praise from Titans coach Mike Mularkey.
“He was a pro about it,” Mularkey said of Henry’s transition from college to the NFL. “He was outstanding. I mean, just like you’d expect him, he was outstanding.”
Henry, a second-round pick who was taken 45th overall by the Titans in last April’s NFL draft, had times this season when his talents were well on display and he even became more involved in the offense as the season progressed.
The Titans, one of only four teams in the NFL who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, finished 9-7 – just outside of playoff position.
Ingram, a member of the New Orleans Saints, reached the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for a season for the first time in his career, though he called it a “bittersweet” accomplishment as his team missed out on the playoffs for a third straight season.
Still, Ingram earned praise from Saints coach Sean Payton earlier this week on what he thought himself to be an exceptional season by the running back.
“Mark had his best year, I’d say, as a Saint when you look at his yards per attempt,” Payton said during his weekly appearance on WWL-AM in New Orleans. “Man, he had some long runs this season. And I think the guys up front, I think we made strides in the running game. And we’ve got to continue to look at improving that. But he ran physical. He ran with good pad level. I know his yards after contact were really high. I’m proud of him and excited to see him have a season like that because I know he works extremely hard at it, and he came off an injury a year ago.”
Along the way, Ingram’s season was filled with highs and lows, too. During the team’s seventh game of the season, he was benched after losing a fumble for the second straight game. But the following he had a season-high 158 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in a 41-23 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Overall over the final nine games of the year, Ingram rushed for 704 yards and scored seven total touchdowns.
For the Saints, a pass-heavy team with quarterback Drew Brees under center, it was their first 1,000-yard rusher since former Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister did it in 2006.
Both Henry and Ingram were Heisman Trophy winners at Alabama – the only two in the school’s history. In the seasons they won it, (Henry, 2015 and Ingram, 2009), the Crimson Tide won the national championship in part because of their play.
(You can follow David Levin on Twitter @DM719907)
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