Can the stars align in New York for LaDainian Tomlinson?

Ryan BoniniContributor IMarch 14, 2010

Did LT pick playing time potential over Super Bowl run?

Former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has a new team and another chance to show he isn’t washed up.

The New York Jets have added Tomlinson on a two-year deal, per to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Tomlinson chose the Jets over the Minnesota Vikings, who also courted him.

After being the top dog his entire career, Tomlinson is expected to serve as the team’s No. 2 running back behind second-year back Shonn Greene. This intrigues me, as it provides Tomlinson a better opportunity for playing time, while the Vikings may have provided a better opportunity at a Super Bowl run. Just food for thought of where LT’s mindset may be…

Tomlinson managed a career-low 730 rushing yards last year, while averaging a career-low 3.3 yards per carry. He did find the end zone 12 times, and he has scored double-digit touchdowns rushing every year of his career by the way.

Tomlinson has not looked like the same back in recent years. The Chargers’ offense has changed during that time period, too, going more with the pass-happy style and away from the strong run-blocking, fullback-led system that helped make LT great. Along the way, Tomlinson’s numbers struggled greatly and his durability has been a big issue, too. He has averaged less than four yards per carry each of the last two seasons.

I’m probably in the minority, but I’m not ready to say he is washed up. In fact, I have often said in recent months that I thought he was still capable of a 1,200-plus yard season in the right system. The Jets provide him that system, as they are powered by a strong running game and have a dynamite offensive line. However, the stars will need to align to give Tomlinson that type of statistical opportunity.

Tomlinson is expected to serve as the team’s change-of-pace back to give Greene a breather, as well as a third-down option. He has 530 career receptions, along with 15 career receiving touchdowns, so he is no slouch in that department. In fact, last season was the first in his career he did not have at least 50 receptions in a season!

Can Greene be an every-down back?

There is no question Greene is the Jets’ back of the present – and future – so Tomlinson will deal with the scraps. On top of that, LT will have to share them with running back Leon Washington (broken leg), provided Washington is healthy. The good news, however, is the Jets led the NFL (by a sizeable margin) with 607 rushing attempts last season. That provides plenty of opportunity for multiple backs.

Once again I may be in the minority, but I’m still going to consider Tomlinson as a No. 4 fantasy football running back in 2010. As the summer approaches, I may even be thinking No. 3 fantasy back in point-per-reception leagues. Sure, his skills are diminished, and he isn’t the back he used to be. But, it wouldn’t take a lot for the stars to align in New York to allow him to see the bulk of the carries. Consider this:

  • Greene may have been dynamite in the playoffs, but he has just 108 career regular-season carries. Is he ready to be the feature back?
  • The Jets’ top back in the regular season last year – Thomas Jones – had 332 carries. That may be too much to ask out of Greene, so we could see more of a committee approach.
  • Washington (leg) is expected to be ready for the regular season, but what if he isn’t? On top of that, Washington hasn’t carried the ball more than 76 times in each of the past three seasons.
  • The Jets have a mauling offensive line built for opening running lanes.
  • The Jets have one of the best defenses in the league, which leads to the offense seeing more opportunities.
  • The Jets offer an offensive system – due to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer – that Tomlinson is familiar with, so his transition to the new scheme will not be heavy lifting.

I’m not screaming I’m all about LT now that he is in New York, but I’m not ready to jump ship either. Call me a sucker, but I see potential here.

As the summer approaches, I’m sure I’ll break this down further and’s editors will have plenty to say on the situation, too. Until then, I welcome you to share your thoughts. Is LT done? Does LT have a chance to make a rebound in New York? Am I a fool for thinking the Vikings have a better chance at making the Super Bowl than the Jets are? Let’s hear your thoughts, KFFLians.


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