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Can Tomlinson, Gates stay healthy?

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jul 17, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Chargers' core players remain mostly intact, hope to stay injury-free

    By Christopher Harris

    Peruse the Chargers' roster, and you'll see a whole lot of familiar faces. The difference between 2008 and 2009, however, is that those familiar faces hope to stay upright quite a bit more often. Linebacker Shawne Merriman returns from his knee problems. Tight end Antonio Gates says his toe issues are behind him. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie hopes to recover from a disastrous '08 campaign in which he was limited by a fractured hip. And there's this running back you might have heard of who thinks he'll be back to full strength a season after recovering from a medial collateral ligament tear and toe problems of his own.

    His name is LaDainian Tomlinson.

    Tomlinson inspires dramatically varying fantasy football opinions this season. Some folks have heard how explosive and healthy he looked during minicamps, and think he'll be dominant once again. And some folks think it's not difficult to look good out of pads and that once games are played for real, he might get hurt again. We won't get the full story out of Tomlinson during training camp, because the people with lightning bolts on their helmets will keep him in check for most of the summer. But a whole bunch of fantasy fortunes will rest on how Tomlinson's age-30 season (he turned 30 on June 23) develops once September rolls around.

    What to look for in camp

    Key position battles: There really aren't any. The team many analysts expected to make a run at this past Super Bowl is pretty much intact. Oh, there's a modicum of drama on the offensive line, which I'll discuss below, and it'll be interesting to see whether the Chargers have plans for last season's impressive rookie corner, Antoine Cason, who outplayed the oft-torched Cromartie. Cason probably won't win a starting gig over Cromartie or Quentin Jammer in camp, but he could narrow the distance and give one or both of those guys significantly less rope once the season begins. Igor Olshansky was a big disappointment last season and has left to be reunited with Wade Phillips in Dallas, so the right defensive end spot probably will come down to Ryon Bingham and Jacques Cesaire, neither of whom figures to be a huge factor in shoring up what became a somewhat shaky run defense and very shaky pass rush in '08.

    Fitting in: Fantasy-wise, the most interesting story here is probably Darren Sproles, whom the Chargers designated as their franchise player in February. Sproles signed his one-year franchise tender offer (for a whopping $6.6 million -- not bad for a backup runner) and didn't come to a long-term agreement with the team before the July 15 deadline. That means Sproles will be a free agent after this season, and it means he clearly is counting on a big season behind Tomlinson to enhance his value for next year. In the latter stages of the '08 regular season and in the playoffs, there was no question Sproles was the Chargers' best rusher. As such, provided he doesn't act out in camp, Sproles might be more than just a handcuff in deeper fantasy leagues this season.

    Most of the only truly new bodies the Chargers have this season play linebacker. The team hopes it can get a contribution out of the No. 16 overall pick from April's draft, outside linebacker Larry English. With Merriman back healthy, English figures to be the third man in behind Merriman and Shaun Phillips, although Jyles Tucker did a very nice job starting in Merriman's place last season. So I guess you could say English and Tucker will wage a "battle" of sorts, although it isn't for a starting gig. Meanwhile, Kevin Burnett comes over from the Cowboys to play inside linebacker, perhaps as a starter beside Stephen Cooper, although Matt Wilhelm was a pretty decent player in that spot last season.

    On the line: The offensive line's left side is extremely strong; tackle Marcus McNeill does an All-Pro job protecting Philip Rivers' blind side, and guard Kris Dielman is a masher. Center Nick Hardwick was banged up all of '08, but he's returning and he's solid. However, the right side was a mess last season. Jeromey Clary is a fine run-blocker at right tackle, but he is not good in pass protection and probably is better suited to play guard. And at right guard, the Chargers will try to use Kynan Forney, who didn't play at all last season after coming over from the Falcons, although rookie second-rounder Louis Vasquez reportedly looked good in minicamp. It probably would bode better for the Chargers if Vasquez showed enough in camp right away to win the job.

    The bottom line

    The fantasy stars you know all are still here: Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and, yes, LaDainian Tomlinson. The defense figures to get healthy again and hopes to get back to where it was before last season's disastrous results -- the team finished second worst in passing yards allowed and tied for 22nd in sacks in '08. So the San Diego training camp really doesn't figure to produce all that much drama, unless one of those previously injured guys gets hurt again. No, the real fuss and commotion over the Chargers' '09 season will come only once we see Tomlinson do his thing when it really counts. Only then will we know for sure where he should've been drafted in fantasy leagues.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    When it comes to injuries, there are no predictions. Tendencies, perhaps, but not predictions.

    Being in the best possible shape is the best defense against injury. Let's hope that all of the players & conditioning/strength coaches are on top of this.

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

    Jul 11, 2006
    Now is the time for the magic, make it happen and if you can't help the team, sit your *** down.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. gobolts_charger

    gobolts_charger BoltTalker

    Aug 6, 2006
    He did?
    He was?

  5. HollywoodLeo

    HollywoodLeo Well-Known Member

    Mar 13, 2006
    I like how they go through one year injured and suddenly that's a huge question for them.

    Why isn't this question posed for oft injured Luis Castillo, but instead directed at them?
  6. pure-sol

    pure-sol Well-Known Member

    May 3, 2008
    Mr. Harris could have made this article a LOT shorter. Like this:

  7. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Luis doesn't draw the same attention as LT & Gates. For years it was "As LT goes, so go the Chargers". Then Gates became a big part of the offense & people look at him in a new light.

    If Luis was getting 12-15 sacks/season, he'd be under the national spotlight, too.

    Not saying that it's right, just my reasoning for why. That & we get the label of "talented but can't win the big one", so everything gets questioned. Time to shove that crap down the national sports media's throat. :icon_twisted:

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