What is it with all these articles about the LaDainian Tomlinson passing the torch to Adrian Peterson? I, too, am guilty after proclaiming last season that L.T.'s reign on the top was shorter than a leprechaun, while thinking Peterson was going to stomp to 2,000 yards.
That was a little premature, to say the least. Tomlinson ripped it up in 2007. At the end of the year, L.T. looked like Evander in his prime. A.P. looked like Butterbean in the 15th round while limping to the finish line.
I wrote this towards the end of last season:
One of the funniest quotes on Madden Football is when your running back is dominating with big runs, and John Madden blurts out, "Just keep giving him the ball!" Check out the Chargers rushing stats:
Carries 1 - 10: The Chargers rank a pedestrian 27th in the NFL with a weak 3.6 ypc. L.T. is not in the top 20 backs in the league.
Carries 11 - 20: They shoot up to third in the league with a 5.0 ypc. L.T averages 5.1, which good for third (tied) in the league behind Adrian Peterson (6.1) and Justin Fargas (6.0).
Carries 21+: The Chargers rank first in the NFL with an astronomical 7.2 ypc. L.T. averages a preposterous 7.6 YPC!!! More than a yard better than Adrian Peterson.
Hey Norv, "JUST KEEP GIVIN HIM DA' BALL!"
The crazy thing about it is, someone said that L.T. "barely led the league in rushing last year." I seem to recall three games in a row—Denver, Detroit, and Oakland—with L.T. sitting by halftime or early in the third quarter.
There were at least two other games in which LT took an early seat (Denver again and Houston). When you sit out the equivalent of two games or so and still lead the league in rushing, you've done your thing.
Peterson not only has to stay healthy, which he'll never do unless he takes it easy, he has to prove he has the stamina for a full season. I believe he will develop this, but he has to prove it. After that 300-yard outburst against an injury-riddled Chargers defense, he was only the leading rusher in two out of the next eight games to end the season, and he only had 78 yards in one of those games.
While A.P. was gasping for air and struggling on weary legs, L.T. was rolling for 137 yards per game over four games late in the season, while holding off the Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 3 seed.
That's 137 yards per game at the end of the year, while sitting nearly the entire second half in three of those four games. Meanwhile, Peterson slammed into the rookie wall.
Peterson had a couple of huge games last year, but L.T. may have run more than 200 yards in four or five games last season, had the Chargers not called the dogs off on a few overmatched opponents.
Let's be honest, Peterson is far and away the most explosive runner in the league and it's not even close, but A.P. simply:
1. Doesn't match Tomlinson as a receiver
2. Can't pass block like L.T.
3. Doesn't have the stamina of L.T.
4. Is not as savvy as L.T.
5. Not as strong in the fourth quarter as L.T.
6. Isn't a threat to throw the ball like L.T.
7. Can't inspire his team like L.T. (do you think any of the Chargers care was the idiot East Coast media say about him? Yes, and defenses are going to pay for it)
8. Can't score as many TDs as L.T. (A.P. doesn't have the weapons around him for that, it's not his fault)
9. Is not as big or compact as L.T. (shockingly enough, I swore he was 6'4", 265 the way he ran against the Chargers last year, not 6'0" 217)
Jamal Lewis stampeded on the Browns for 295 yards in one game. The great runner led his team to the Super Bowl and stampeded all over the Giants. Ja-maul rampaged for over 2,000 yards in one season...and LT was still better than him, having more total yards and touchdowns than Lewis.
Is Peterson even on par with Larry Johnson or Stephen Jackson? Hell no. Johnson had two-straight seasons with 1,700 yards on the ground, and Jackson had one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history in 2006. Neither one of those studs is past his prime.
With all that said, I haven't seen anything to lead me to believe that Peterson can't be the best in the league soon. I will be singing the praises of A.P. in a later article, because I know what this guy could become.
If he were to pick up the phone and talk to L.T. or Emmitt Smith, he may learn a thing or two. Here are some of the tips L.T. received from his mentor Emmitt Smith:
1. Quit taking on defenders, especially in the first quarter. Run out of bounds and save yourself for the fourth quarter.
2. Don't look for the home run in short yardage situations. Find that hole with your superior vision and get it up in there.
3. Sit in that ice tube after the game.
4. Work on your flexibility and balance in the offseason.
With advice like that, anyone thinking L.T. is going downhill this season is likely in for a lackluster surprise. Barring injury, L.T. will continue to produce at a high level until he retires after the 2011 season as planned.