Meet Thomas Jones's Replacement: LaDainian Tomlinson
Over the last few weeks, I've been reading article after article about LaDainian Tomlinson's inability to impress at practice up to this point. I've heard analyst after analyst comment on this and none of them think Tomlinson is up to the challenge. Well, I disagree with every single one of them. LDT is ready to take on the hefty task ahead of him.
The Jets have attempted to improve in every facet of the game. They have boosted the passing game with Santonio Holmes. They have improved the secondary with Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie. They have improved the defensive line and the pass-rush with Jason Taylor (...hopefully). And they think that they've done the same with the running game by adding a future HOF'r in LaDainian Tomlinson.
TJ out. LT in. I'm going to make a fairly bold proclamation that the Jets got the better player in that swap. They cut some "loose weight" by getting rid of Jones. I know he had over 1,400 yards last season. I know he ran for 14 touchdowns last season. LT had nearly half as many yards with 730, though he did manage to cross the goal line 12 times.
After his exit from San Diego, Tomlinson implied that their offensive line and Norv Turner's playcalling were two big factors in his decline in production. And I won't disagree with that. With the emergence of Phillip Rivers as a premier quarterback and with receiving talent like Vincent Jackson, transitioning out of the run-heavy Tomlinson era and into the pass-heavy Rivers era was a necessity in SD.
Fortunately for LaDainian, he joined the defending champs when it comes to the run game. The Jets led the league in rush yards last season, and a lot of credit goes to Thomas Jones for that. A lot of undeserved credit. Too many people think very highly of TJ. I, on the other hand, don't think he deserves the bulk of the credit for his success with the Jets.
The Jets' offensive line is very widely recognized as being the best unit in the league. With that crew in front of him, Jones shouldn't have had nearly as much trouble as he did making it past the line of scrimmage. If you follow the Jets religiously, you most likely noticed that he continuously got tripped up at the line of scrimmage. He would manage a few huge carries late in games and his stats would get padded that way.
I'm not putting him down in any way. That's just the way he plays the game. But wouldn't you rather have a guy like Shonn Greene taking carries? Greene is a back that follows the golden rule of running: keep moving your legs. He is a brute of a running back that doesn't take no for an answer, even when he's sandwiched between two defenders. He doesn't get tripped up at the line, he keeps going.
Guess what...LDT can do that too. Or at least he could. And with Nick Mangold, Damien Woody, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and Brandon Moore in front of him in New York, I think he can make a step in the right direction towards rejuvenating an already storied career. What better way to end your tenure in the NFL than with a couple of surprisingly successful seasons on a championship team. Probably just wishful thinking...
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