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But like most things in life, by the end of the season, people were wishing they hadn’t gone with the consensus.
Tomlinson, as well as the Chargers, came in with very high expectations for the NFL season. LdT (the real LT retired in ‘93) was looking to rebound from a down year in ‘07 based on his standards (1,474 rushing yards and 18 total TDs) and an incident in the AFC Championship which damaged his reputation as being a tough player.
Although cleared to play vs. the Patriots after a week of practice, Tomlinson only took two carries before pulling himself out for the rest of the game and sitting on the bench with his hood over his helmet.
But things in ‘08 didn’t turn out as planned. He suffered from a toe injury from the get go and, along with rest of the Chargers, came out of the gate sleepwalking.
Another problem for Tomlinson was that for whatever reason, Norv Turner’s run blocking schemes have failed to open consistent holes for him to run through and often times LdT was running right into defensive lineman which had beaten the Chargers lineman to position. It’s tough to break those longs runs we became accustomed to seeing from No. 21 when the LB or S was now plugging those holes, which were gaping in ‘06.
Over the final month of the season, he began to raise his productivity level, and not surprisingly, the Chargers also found their rhythm and ran the table to make the playoffs, but in the end, he finished off the season with a modest 1,110 yards and 12 total TDs.
While talk of Tomlinson beginning to show his age is real - he’s been nicked for the better part of two seasons - there’s still enough left in the tank to have a solid season. And talk of making Darren Sproles the featured back in San Diego is laughable; the 5′6″ scat back would get destroyed over the course of the season.
What he needs in order to have a productive fantasy season again is help from the guys up front and the scheme in general. Very few backs in NFL history have been able to dominate without a very good line in front of them. And that applies to Tomlinson.
He doesn’t have the explosiveness or shiftiness that he had three years ago, but he can still get the job done and our bet is that he’ll still get enough carries/attempts to warrant a high draft choice next season, just not No. 1. He will more likely go in the 9-12 range.