Home > American Football > LT at the Jets: blast off or crash landing?

LT at the Jets: blast off or crash landing?

Few stars in the NFL galaxy shine brighter than that of LaDainian Tomlinson. The 30 year old Texan is one of the greatest half-backs to ever grace the league. In his nine year career, Tomlinson has notched up 12,490 yards on 4.3 yards per carry (YPC) to put himself 8th on the all-time list of rushers by yards and second only to the great Emmitt Smith for career rushing touchdowns. In addition to this, the famous number 21 has started his own record book: NFL record for single season touchdowns (31), single season rushing touchdowns (28), most points in an NFL season (186), most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (18), most consecutive games with more than one touchdown (8), most consecutive games with three touchdowns (3)… One could go on but you get the picture.

The number five pick in the 2001 draft has achieved all of these feats in San Diego with the Chargers, the team which took him out of Texas Christian University. LT will forever be a legend for his achievements on the West Coast, even if he did fail to deliver the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, all good things must come to an end (or so Nelly Furtado tells us) and on February 22nd 2010, the Chargers decided to release Tomlinson.

There is no doubt that Tomlinson’s output has diminished in recent years following a series of ankle problems. The 2009 season saw him fail to rack up 1000 yards in a season for the first time in his career as he posted 730 and his YPC of 3.3 was also a career low. He did, however, still plough his way in to the end zone an impressive 12 times.

Following his release, there was a media frenzy as the press speculated on where the affable running back would end up. Many franchises expressed an interest in taking Tomlinson, but the press got their answer on March 14th when he signed with Rex Ryan’s New York Jets. Tomlinson’s stock has fallen somewhat in recent years following injury problems and the comparatively ‘meagre’ $2.6 million a year guaranteed salary is a fine illustration of the point, but make no mistake, LT is still capable and raring to go for his new team. But is New York a good fit for him?

The Jets were the surprise package of last season’s NFL as they reached the AFC Championship game where they lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets played a run heavy offense all year as Ryan looked to ease in rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Thomas Jones carried the bulk of the load, clocking up a career-high 1402 yards in the process. Shonn Greene emerged in the postseason and proved that he is a more than capable running back. Jones has now departed for pastures new (Kansas) and this leaves room for Tomlinson in a run-first offense.

On the face of it, people may see a move to the Jets as a step down for the 2006 NFL MVP. Sure, the Jets beat the Chargers in the playoffs last season, but the men from California have been perennial contenders for a good few years now. Under Head Coach Norv Turner however, they have become a pass-first team. One of the reasons LT was so prolific in his early years in San Diego was the fact that he WAS the Chargers’ offense. The emergence of Philip Rivers as an elite quarterback has changed that and with top calibre receivers like Vince Jackson and Antonio Gates at your disposal, why not pass the football?

LaDainain Tomlinson was therefore forced to seek a fresh challenge. He is no longer capable of being an every down back (an opinion shared by NFL great Deon ‘Primetime’ Sanders) as his body simply will not allow it, but he still brings plenty to the party. He has an uncanny knack for finding the end zone and can spot gaps in a defence like no other back in the league. As Ryan and his coaching staff look to continue to bring Sanchez along slowly but surely, the Jets will continue to run the ball more than any other team in the league. Sharing the load with the emerging Greene should allow Ryan to get the most of LT and if he can, it may just prove to be one of the shrewdest acquisitions in NFL history.

LT in action for the San Diego Chargers (This image is the property of Sports Illustrated)

LaDainian Tomlinson

Name: LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson

Place of Birth: Rosebud, Texas

Date of Birth: June 23rd 1979

Height: 5”10 (1.78m)

Weight: 221 lbs (100 kg)

College: Texas Christian University

NFL Draft: 2001 Number 5: San Diego Chargers

Career Rushing Yards: 12,490

Career Receiving Yards: 3955

Career Rushing TDs: 138

Career Receiving TDs: 15

Awards: AP NFL MVP (2006), PFWA NFL MVP (2006), Walter Payton Man of the Year (2006), Best NFL Player ESPY Award (2007), Best Record-Breaking ESPY Award (2007), Best Male Athlete ESPY (2007), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, 5 time Pro Bowl selection (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), 4 time First Team All-Pro (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

Categories: American Football
  1. Chris Hollindale
    June 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Excellent mention of Nelly Furtado in an article about the NFL 🙂

    • June 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      It’s what all great sports journalists aspire to Chris!

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