CFX - Training Camp Preview: RB/FB

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

Tomlinson has put up impressive numbers in each of his five NFL seasons, and has in the process earned the right to be mentioned in the same sentence as Hall of Fame candidates Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders.

You don’t need me to tell you what LaDainian can do on the field. What I can tell you is that he’ll most likely be doing more of the same in 2006. And less of the same, as well.

There is a movement afoot among the Chargers’ offensive braintrust to distribute the ball at least a bit more liberally than what we’ve seen in the last few years. LT will get his carries and his receptions, all right, but I’m surmising that he’ll have 5% fewer touches this season, and that his fellow running backs will see the ball a little more often. Now, before you throw an embolism at this suggestion, keep in mind that this would translate to 15-20 fewer carries per season, hardly an earth-shattering change, but enough to have a beneficial effect on LT’s durability.

Michael Turner is ideally equipped to give Tomlinson the occasional breather. He has the same kind of straight line speed that LT does, but is less shifty, and more powerful. A defense that’s weary from trying to keep LT from zig-zagging laterally will be vulnerable to getting steamrolled by Turner, who runs low enough to break arm tackles and strong enough to plow through defenders who don’t wrap him up.

Less wear and tear on Tomlinson figures to keep him fresher late into the season, and if all goes as planned, into the post-season.

Cam Cameron has also developed a series of plays that are designed to get the ball to Darren Sproles ‘in space’, which includes having him line up in the slot and/or going in motion, where his elusiveness can be capitalized upon in single coverage. As it was, Darren averaged 6.2 yards per carry last year, and with his water-bug quickness, he should be able to spring for some long gainers if he’s put in the position where he’s isolated in ‘man’ coverage with just one guy to beat before he’s in the open field.

In short, the Chargers’ trio of running backs is amazingly diverse, which permits the week-to-week flexibility to exploit mismatches with opposing defenses. While the team possessed this same talent a year ago, the coaches seem more determined to make use of it efficiently, and to maximum benefit.

Lorenzo Neal is the consummate professional. He'd have to be in order to survive, let alone thrive, in a 14 year career of helmet banging and thunderous collisions. Nobody works harder than Lo, and nobody takes better care of himself, either, and he was rewarded for his dedication and production by being named to the Pro Bowl last February.

The man is a physical freak of nature, and a heart-and-soul type team leader. And even though Neal is a dominating lead blocker, he also gets a surprising number of touches, generally in short yardage situations. He had 29 rushes in 2005, averaging 3.3 yards per carry, and 24 catches on which he averaged 6 yards. A favorite ‘check off’ target for Drew Brees, Neal might well find he gets fewer receptions this season.

There is clearly something about Andrew Pinnock that the coaching staff likes, because as seldom as he sees the field on offense, he’s been kept around despite the availability of less expensive alternatives. A reliable search-and-destroy type in kick coverage, Pinnock had but one carry from scrimmage during the 2005 regular season. In pre-season work, he has shown good short yardage thrust as well as surprising maneuverability for one so large. A good blocker, Pinnock, a former 7th round draft choice, has the advantage of serving his apprenticeship behind the master craftsman that is Lo Neal.

Looking at the ‘big picture’ of talent, maturity and leadership, the Chargers are stocked with what is likely the best group of backs in the entire NFL.