LaDainian Tomlinson is done.
I know, I know. It’s just one week. That’s what you’re telling yourself if you took him in the first round. Sure, there’s no reason to panic. He’ll be better next week — oh wait, he faces the Ravens next week. OK, but he’s L.T., a fantasy god! He’ll turn it around.
No guys, he won’t.
Tomlinson was the best running back in fantasy football for years. I loved him the second he came out of Texas Christian. But all good things must come to and end. And at the age of 30, it’s pretty clear that Tomlinson has lost a step.
Case in point. A team that he used to destroy, the Oakland Raiders, held him to one catch, 66 scrimmage yards and one touchdown.
That lone score came after Antonio Gates was stopped at Oakland’s 1-yard line, after which Tomlinson took it in for the score.
It wasn’t exactly a tough touchdown.
Despite what Chargers coach Norv Turner might have said in the offseason, Tomlinson is no longer a featured back either. He was replaced on third downs the entire game by Darren Sproles, who was far more explosive and productive than his veteran teammate.
When the game was on the line in the second half, it was Sproles, not Tomlinson, who was on the field.
Reports later indicated that Tomlinson had rolled his ankle, which was part of the reason he was on the sidelines. However, he told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “it wasn’t bad enough I couldn’t play.”
If Tomlinson’s ankle wasn’t that bad, why would he not be on the field? Isn’t he the best running back on the team? I would argue that Turner knew Sproles was making more plays and decided to keep him on the field.
I would also argue that Tomlinson isn’t the best back on that team anymore.
Sproles caught five passes for 43 yards and ran for 23 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in the contest. He also made some great plays on special teams as a return man. Based on those numbers, he’s a viable flex starter across the board.
So what can we expect from Tomlinson the rest of the season? Well, I would temper expectations after last night.
Aside from Tomlinson’s age and what looks like a backfield committee with Sproles, the Chargers have obvious issues on their offensive line. Center Nick Hardwick left the game with what looked like a serious leg injury. The team also lost rookie right guard Louis Vasquez, who also appeared to suffer a leg ailment.
Tomlinson also has games against tough run defenses like the Ravens, Dolphins, Steelers, Giants, Eagles and Titans still on the slate. Heck, if you can’t trust him to produce against the Raiders, how can you trust him at all?
It’s sad to watch. But it’s the end of an era.