Is Tomlinson worth it for the Jets? Y-E-S!

March, 11, 2010
3/11/10
12:14
PM ET
The New York Jets had success with a thirtysomething running back last year. They might be willing to give it another whirl.

[+] EnlargeLaDainian Tomlinson
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireLaDainian Tomlinson racked up 12,490 rushing yards over nine seasons in San Diego.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports free agent LaDainian Tomlinson will visit the Jets on Friday. Tomlinson, cut by the San Diego Chargers, will turn 31 in June and is coming off the worst season of his career.

Tomlinson met with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday. There's a chance he could sign with the Vikings and cancel his Jets interview.

There's no way the Jets could use Tomlinson like they did Thomas Jones, a physical specimen who will turn 32 in August and was released last week for financial reasons. Jones was a workhorse last year, rushing for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Tomlinson is worn out. In the Jets' backfield, he would be a complement to sophomore Shonn Greene, a rugged runner who showed in the playoffs he can be a featured back.

ESPN stats analyst KC Joyner sees Tomlinson as a valuable short-yardage specialist. The five-time Pro Bowler rushed 223 times for 730 yards and a 3.3-yard average per carry, all career-lows. But he rushed for 12 touchdowns, tying for fifth in the NFL.

For a story that analyzes the value of Tomlinson, Jones and Willie Parker in an attempt to project how much they have left, Joyner breaks down how each back fared when receiving good blocking (when every blocker won his point-of-attack assignment) versus bad blocking (at least one blocker losing his point-of-attack assignment).

Writes Joyner:
Tomlinson had 14 carries last season when the Chargers were within 5 yards of the opponent's goal line and he was given acceptable blocking. Five of these came in Weeks 1 through 7, when Tomlinson was still struggling with his injuries, and he scored on only one of those plays.
That stands in stark contrast to his late-season performance in this area, when LT scored touchdowns on six of the eight good-blocking goal-line plays. He also scored a 6-yard touchdown on a rush play with good blocking against the Oakland Raiders in Week 8. If that were added in, Tomlinson would have seven touchdowns on nine carries of this nature down the stretch. Add in his 4-for-4 mark in converting on short-yardage (defined as third-down plays needing 3 or fewer yards) run plays with good blocking, and LT's conversion rate in this area moves to a very impressive 11 successes on 13 carries.

The Jets have one of the NFL's top offensive lines, perhaps the best. They line up Pro Bowlers at center, left guard and left tackle.

Tomlinson, of course, can't expect to break the bank with the Jets. The Jets parted ways with a running back who rushed for nearly twice as many yards as Tomlinson did but was due a $3 million roster bonus and a $2.8 million base salary.

But if Tomlinson can handle serving as Greene's sidekick and accepts commensurate money, then the Jets can improve their backfield.

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