The story in training camp for Chris Ivory has been his continuous problems with securing the football. Every day in practice Chris Ivory seems to put the ball on the turf and you have to wonder if this issue is big enough that the Saints may not trust him given the emergence of Travaris Cadet. I was curious how Chris Ivory stacked up against the other runners on the Saints in terms of fumble rate – so I came up with the following. Below is the fumble rate per touch of the top four Saints backs for their careers:
Pierre Thomas 0.58%
Darren Sproles 0.65%
Mark Ingram 0.75%
Chris Ivory 1.84%
Now granted, Ingram and Ivory’s sample size is incredibly small. In Ivory’s defense, after fumbling at a high rate his rookie season he did not fumble one time last year with 79 carries. Based on the number of career touches Thomas and Sproles have had, their low fumble rate is frankly astonishing. Those guys know how to take care of the football and have some of the lowest rates in NFL history. Kudos to both of those guys for setting the Saints’ standard on fumble rates almost unrealistically low. Compared to his teammates Ivory is much worse at holding on to the football, but let’s see how he compares to the greatest.
I then ran the fumble rate of Tiki Barber’s career, known by most as one of the worst backs securing the football of all time. Granted the sample size is much much larger than Ivory, but his fumble rate for his career was 1.89%. That number is incredibly close to Ivory’s fumble rate so far, which means two seasons into the NFL he’s on par with the one back most known for having fumble problems. That said, Barber’s rate was much higher before his last few seasons when he seemed to correct the problem and lower his career rate. Barry Sanders, who many consider the all time best, had a career fumble rate of 1.4%. Walter Payton’s rate was even worse than Tiki at 1.99%. Jim Brown’s fumble rate was 2.2%. So some of the all time best have had a high fumble rate too, but teams would tolerate it based on the upside. In two seasons Ivory has averaged 5.0 yards per carry, higher than Barber (4.7) and Walter Payton (4.4), even with Barry Sanders (5.0) and just behind Jim Brown (5.2). I tend to think the Saints can’t let that kind of talent go, especially when he’s only making ~500k, regarless of his ball security issues.
Still, Ivory’s tenure with the Saints is in jeopardy due to his fumbling problems in practice, and a couple mistakes in a game situation in preseason coupled with Cadet continuing to perform well could do him in. Chris Ivory could do himself a lot of favors by fixing this glaring weakness in his game.