As awful as the Saints’ 2011 playoff memories are from their trip to Seattle, you’ll surely remember that game was played without a healthy capable back on the Saints’ roster due to the multitude of injuries they suffered at that position. Chris Ivory, for example, was unavailable for that game despite being the team’s leading rusher that season due to a serious injury. That injury would keep him on the PUP list to begin this season as well. Even returned from that injury and fully healthy, Ivory has largely played second fiddle to rookie 1st round pick Mark Ingram on running between the tackle plays based on Ingram’s solid inaugural campaign. Then, Ingram suffered a turf toe injury… one that requires surgery and landed him on IR, and just like that Chris Ivory has his old job back at a time when he’s healthier than ever. Ivory is just hitting his stride and the peak form in 2010 that landed him the starting job as the team’s leading rusher. No surprise, he is the first back in 2011 to rush for 100+ yards in a Saints uniform as he steamrolled over the Carolina Panthers in week 17.
As an undrafted rookie free agent with an already extensive injury history despite being just a second year player, Chris Ivory may never get another chance to shine like this. The job is his, he’s playing well, and he’s coming into these playoffs healthy and durable from the lack of wear and tear he’s suffered during the course of the season. While I’m sure the lack of playing time has been frustrating, keeping him on the shelf this long has afforded the Saints the luxury of a fast and powerful back at 100% at the most critical of times, a luxury the Saints were far from fortunate to experience a year ago. But the time is now for Ivory, who can cement himself as a quality NFL player with a memorable campaign over this coming playoff run. If Ivory gets injured or suffers a poor performance, he risks to fade into obscurity and suffer the same sentence as most young backs of only seeing 3 seasons in the NFL on average. I don’t know whether Ivory’s NFL career will keep him in New Orleans or if he’ll have to eventually get his big opportunity elsewhere, but there is no bigger career resume builder than in the big moment in the NFL playoffs when you’re good, you’re healthy, and you’re on the big stage. The stars are aligned perfectly for Ivory to set up his playing career for quite some time. How he takes advantage of this moment will ultimately dictate in large part how he ends up. The opportunities we’ll be there and he’s ready to the task, so it’s just a matter of execution and playing up to his potential.
In addition to Mark Igram being placed on IR which opened up a roster spot for guard Eric Olsen, the Saints also placed linebacker Will Herring on IR and promoted 7th round draft pick LB Nate Bussey to the active roster. The Saints have also signed LSU LB Darry Beckwith to replace Bussey’s left vacant spot on the practice squad. You can find the Saints’ 2012 playoff roster as it stands currently HERE. The Saints host the Detroit Lions in the Superdome this Saturday at 8pm eastern.