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Chargers: Camp report - Clark Judge - CBSSports.com

Discussion in 'American Football' started by wrbanwal, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2005
    Nice article and a biggest camp question video (although the video is a little dated, Ellison has signed, no?)... :bolt::bolt::bolt:


    Fantasy Football geeks, listen up: If you're wondering what to do with Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round of this year's draft, I have a suggestion.

    Take him.

    It's not that L.T. will score 31 touchdowns again because he won't. That comes around once in a lifetime, and Tomlinson touched that base three seasons ago. But he won't be limited to 12, either, which is what happened last year when injuries reduced his numbers across the board. Tomlinson offers no excuses but insists he will be better ... and I believe him.

    I watched him in practice, and I see him in games. And what I see is someone determined to prove wrong critics who characterize him as a descending back. His first step seems quicker, his acceleration through the hole better, his ability to turn the corner more effective than the back who was handicapped most of last season.

    "He just seems locked in and zeroed in -- as out to get it -- as I've ever seen him," said quarterback Philip Rivers. "People ask me all the time, 'Do you think L.T. will have a good year?' And I say, 'Yeah, you should see him.'"

    But you have, and that's a story in itself. In past summers, Tomlinson did not play preseason games. But coach Norv Turner approached him this year and asked if he were interested in breaking from tradition, if he would suit up for games he once sat out. Tomlinson said he was, and the rest you know.

    He carried five times in the preseason opener, then eight times against Arizona in a game where he turned a short pass into a nifty 19-yard gain before it was called back because of penalties. He is not expected to play again, nor should he: There's an artificial surface in Atlanta, and the fourth preseason game is reserved almost strictly for second- and third-teamers.

    So let's go back to what we know about LaDainian Tomlinson. At 30, he is at an age where most backs start to fade. His numbers the past two years have been declining, and he no longer is considered the premier back in the business. Adrian Peterson is. He has absorbed a beating over the years, and that happens when you carry 332 times per season, which is what L.T. has averaged the past eight years. His yards per carry have been in retreat, falling from 5.2 in 2006 to 3.8 in 2008, and he failed to play the past two season enders. Furthermore, after last season the Chargers forced him to take a pay cut in the three years left on his contract.

    In short, all the signs are there of a back who is fading away.

    Only that might not happen. Not now, at least. Eventually, Tomlinson is going to wind down, and maybe that is this season. But not based on what I saw and what I heard from the former All-Pro. Tomlinson knows the score and insists he's not the worn-down back you think he is. And he proves it daily, running around and through the Chargers defense in practice. If this is someone on his way out I want to see the guys who are pushing him there.

    "All I know," said general manager A.J. Smith, "is that he's a healthy back, and he's in great shape. He looks the same as he always looked."

    There is no way to overstate the importance of Tomlinson's health. He was bothered last year by toe and groin injuries, and they combined to slow him down to one of the worst years -- maybe THE worst -- of his pro career. He couldn't break off big runs. He produced only two 100-yard games. He failed to rush for a touchdown in five straight starts. He had only three games with multiple TDs. And he finished with the lowest rushing total of his career.

    "It was definitely frustrating," he said, "but I wasn't able to perform."

    Well, now he is, and look out. Just a hunch, but Tomlinson has a season to back off his critics ... at least for now. He seems intent on proving something to them and to a club that risked losing him by taking a hard stance on his contract. Tomlinson's point is that when he's healthy he is an elite running back. Well, now he's healthy.

    Injuries were just part of his problem a year ago. The offensive line that opens holes for him wasn't very good, either. Combine that with a defense that hemorrhaged points, forcing the Chargers to play from behind, and you have a running game that atypically was out of whack.

    This year's defense should improve. This year's offensive line should improve. And this year's Tomlinson should fall in line behind them.

    "Does he have the 40 that he did?" asked Smith. "Probably not [the same as] when he came out. But the quickness? The burst? The acceleration that we see? Yes, they're the same.

    "The last two years he's been hurt for playoffs, and that hurt him emotionally. When you're a great player, and a Hall of Fame player, and you can't -- at the end of the season -- be able to get out there and make it happen, it tremendously hurt him."

    So Tomlinson is determined not to let that happen again. He's determined not to let a lot of things happen again, and you make the call how this story ends. I've seen him, and all I know is that he sure looks like the back I made a Fantasy Football first-rounder several years ago.

    "To say I'm rededicated ... I don't know that that's the right word," said Tomlinson. "I'm dedicated every year. It's more a matter of doing everything possible to stay healthy. I just want to play football, and let my play speak for myself. I'll let people say what they want and figure it out."

    I already have. Give me LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round. Again.

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