LaDainian Tomlinson: Why 2011 Can Still Be a Highlight-Heavy Season for L.T.

Tommy Favaloro@@BiancoNeroBlogContributor IIIJuly 12, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets runs the ball in the first half against the Minnesota Vikings at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

One of the best and most exciting running backs to ever play in the NFL, LaDainian Tomlinson has provided football fans with tons of incredible highlights and unforgettable moments so far throughout his illustrious 10-year career.

From his signature dark-tinted visor to his elusive moves in the backfield, Tomlinson has had an unbelievable career playing for the San Diego Chargers and the New York Jets over the span of 10 seasons.

At age 32 and after years of injury-plagued seasons which cost him a good deal of playing time in San Diego, many didn’t even give L.T. a chance when he signed with the Jets last season. Critics loved to bring up his age and talk about injuries that he has dealt with in the past.

But what many failed to recall was Tomlinson at his best in 2006, when he had a record-setting year recording 28 touchdowns and 1,815 rushing yards, on his way to being named the league’s Most Valuable Player. They forgot about how L.T. used to carry his team year in and year out, making San Diego one of the most feared offenses in the league.

Tomlinson might not have much more left in the tank, but he has just enough left for one more good season. The 2011 season will be a memorable one loaded with highlights for the Jets veteran running back.

L.T. has come so close to winning a Super Bowl but has come up short several times. This year will probably be his final season based on his contract situation and his age, and so this might be his final chance at winning the Lombardi Trophy.

The five-time Pro Bowler and 2006 MVP has accomplished virtually everything when it comes to individual accolades, but you have to believe that  L.T. will have extra incentive to do well this season and give it all he has for the Jets to finally win it all with New York. He will not hold back at all this season. Everything he has left in those legs will be left on the field by the end of the season.

One might also argue that Tomlinson will be better in 2011 because he now has some help at the running back position. At the beginning of the 2010 season he was the starter, but gradually saw his playing time decrease as Shonn Greene became more effective.

And now that the Jets drafted explosive running back Bilal Powell out of Louisville, Tomlinson will benefit from being part of a three-headed monster. He will get a break when he needs one, and as a result, he will be fresher and more effective when he comes into the game.

The biggest indicator that we have to determine whether or not Tomlinson will have a good season this year is to look at what he did in 2010. L.T. was one of the biggest surprises in the league for much of the season, running for 914 yards and scoring six touchdowns while looking like the L.T. of old.

He was good in the passing game and explosive in the running game and had a great comeback season. While he started off looking like an MVP candidate, he did slow down a little, and that was to be expected. However, this won’t be as big of a problem in 2011 with Greene and Powell backing him up. Rex Ryan will use him effectively and put him at the right moments in a game.

Another reason why Tomlinson’s year will contain lots of highlights is the fantastic offensive line that creates the openings for L.T. and the other running backs to run through. With a line consisting of Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, in addition to solid linemen like Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, the running game reaps the benefits.

It sure is much easier for L.T. running behind the Jets offensive line than it was for him in San Diego, where he had to juke and break tackles frequently.

Finally, history has shown us what the great Tomlinson is capable of doing. Never count him out, even at this stage of his career. We have seen this running back have tremendous seasons in the past, and why should we overlook him in 2011?

He is still No. 21 with the dark visor. He can still play the game, and with lots of experience, L.T. makes up for whatever he physical abilities he lost with football intelligence and an extreme passion for the game.

While I can’t promise you a Pro Bowl season from the Jets veteran RB, what I can promise you is that Tomlinson will turn a lot of heads this season, and he will be on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays frequently. To him, the only highlight that he will care about will be winning a Super Bowl for the first time in his career.