Mark Ingram hopes to return Monday night

After missing the New Orleans Saints’ 31-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, running back Mark Ingram is hoping to return to action for Monday night’s showdown against the 3-0 Miami Dolphins in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Ingram had a toe injury and was inactive for the victory against the Cardinals that helped the Saints improve to 3-0.

Pundits and fans derided Ingram for gaining just 31 yards on 17 carries in wins against Atlanta and Tampa Bay the first two weeks of the season. Notably, he failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at home against the Falcons and was stuffed on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 at Tampa Bay.

But the Saints running game wasn’t that much more productive without him on Sunday. After combining for 76 yards on 26 carries against Atlanta and 75 yards on 20 carries against Tampa Bay, New Orleans running backs totaled 83 yards on 18 carries against Arizona.

Most of those yards against the Cardinals came after New Orleans had built a commanding lead. In the first half Sunday, the Saints picked up minus-5 yards on three rushes by Pierre Thomas.

Nonetheless, there is no denying Ingram at the moment is the Saints’ least productive running back. Thomas has 100 yards on 25 carries; Darren Sproles has 65 yards on 18 carries; and undrafted rookie Khiry Robinson got 38 yards on four carries late in the Arizona game.

Ingram has just 8 more yards on the ground than quarterback Drew Brees, who’s been credited with nine carries for 23 yards and on Sunday scored the Saints only rushing touchdown so far.

Graham is player of week

The NFL named Saints tight end Jimmy Graham the NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday after he caught nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the victory ove Arizona.

The two scores brought his career total to 29 and made him the all-time franchise leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end, surpassing the 27 that Henry Childs hauled in for the Saints between 1974-80.

Graham’s effort Sunday followed a team record-setting 10-catch, 179-yard and one-touchdown performance in a 16-14 win at Tampa Bay in Week 2 for the Saints. He finished Sunday with the most yards by a tight end in a two-game span since Shannon Sharpe gained 314 yards in consecutive contests in 1996 for the Denver Broncos.

After Arizona’s loss, Cardinals Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson said this about Graham: “All that (Brees) ... has to do is pretty much throw it in his vicinity and he is ... going to come down with it.”

Graham’s player of the week honor is the second of his career. The NFL said he joins Sharpe and Alge Crumpler as the only tight ends to win the award more than once.

Graham landed the laurel while reports circulate that he has been offered a new contract by the Saints. Now in the final season of his rookie deal, Graham has amassed 358 yards, 23 receptions and four touchdowns. He’s by far Brees’ favorite target and stands among the biggest reasons the Saints are 3-0, their best start since winning Super Bowl XLIV four seasons ago.

Graham has not responded to the contract offer, according to a Pro Football Talk report citing anonymous sources. The Saints selected the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Graham out of Miami in the third round of the 2010 draft, and he went to the Pro Bowl in his second season.

Ex-Saint dead at 29

Former NFL defensive back Paul Oliver, who was with the Saints briefly in 2011, has died at the age of 29, his family told news media Wednesday. Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune in San Diego reported Oliver committed suicide.

The San Diego Chargers drafted Oliver out of Georgia in the fourth round of the 2007 sypplemental draft. He made the team as a safety and appeared in 57 games from 2008-11, accumulating 96 tackles and four interceptions.

Oliver joined the Saints for training camp in 2011 but was ultimately released with an injury settlement before playing in a game for New Orleans. He then re-signed with San Diego.

The Chargers on Wednesday said in a statement that Oliver “still had a lifetime in front of him.”

“He was part of our family for five years,” the team said. “Right now all of our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this most difficult time.”

Tiller picked up by Chargers

The Chargers added former Saints guard Andrew Tiller to their practice squad Wednesday, according to the NFL’s transaction wire. The Saints picked Tiller up in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, but he suffered a triceps injury in training camp and sat out his rookie year. The Saints waived Tiller at the end of this preseason.

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