Tomlinson not so swift at the goal line

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
9:14
AM ET
New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson has a reputation for being a high-efficiency goal-line performer.

Hand him the ball inside the 5-yard line and chalk it up. Send out your kicker for the extra point.

Tomlinson
That has been true for much of his career, but not in 2009. Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell researched an ESPN Insider article that shows Tomlinson's goal-line numbers were misleading last year.

Barnwell took a look at goal-line production over the past decade by considering the amount and quality of the opportunities each running back had from inside the 5-yard line.

He took the total number of touchdowns scored across the league and calculated the average for given situations. For example, running backs score on 52.9 percent of their attempts from the 1-yard line, and 31.1 percent from the 3-yard line.

Barnwell then examined individual players to see how well they performed against the league average.

Tomlinson rushed for 12 touchdowns, nine of them coming from 5 yards and closer. That looks like an impressive total.

Barnwell writes:
However, it took him 28 carries to accrue those touchdowns, including 13 carries from the 1-yard line alone. Given the carries he received and the downs they came on, a league-average back would have scored 11.3 touchdowns in the same situations, meaning that Tomlinson was 2.3 touchdowns below average in 2009.

The article notes Tomlinson posted the NFL's third-highest success rate for the decade, but he also was below average in four seasons.

Thomas Jones, the veteran Tomlinson has replaced on the Jets' depth chart, was below average for his entire Jets tenure. In 2007, Jones scored five touchdowns less than what the Jets should've expected, the worst goal-line production of the decade until Chicago Bears disappointment Matt Forte scored 5.7 less than the average last year.

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