AFC West: LaDainain Tomlinson

Is Dan Fouts next?

In an eyebrow-raising revelation, former San Diego running back great LaDainian Tomlinson said he met the Charger’s new brass at the NFL combine in February and that general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy asked him to come out of retirement.

Tomlinson said the men said he could carry the ball 10-12 times a game. Tomlinson, who turns 34 in June, said he was flattered, but he had mentally moved away from the game. He retired after the 2011 season. Tomlinson spent his first nine seasons with the Chargers, leaving after the 2009 season.

What do I make of the offer? Well, I think Telesco and McCoy want to get better, and they will consider anything. I truly think it’s for the best that Tomlinson isn’t coming back. He didn’t have much in the tank in his last few years.

The Chargers have since added depth behind Ryan Mathews at the spot.
The Kansas City Chiefs have signed another inside linebacker. They inked former Dallas linebacker Orie Lemon. He played sparingly last season. He will have to earn a spot on the roster. The Chiefs recently signed inside linebackers Akeem Jordan and Zac Diles. The team has an opening at a starting inside linebacker spot. There is no guarantee any of these players will fill that spot.

In other AFC West notes:
  • New San Diego cornerback Derek Cox told reporters he will wear No. 22 in San Diego. He wore No. 21 in Jacksonville. Cox said he won't wear No. 21 because the Chargers will retire the number in honor of former running back LaDainian Tomlinson. The team has not announced any plans. Tomlinson left San Diego on bad terms, but he and the team have since mended fences.
  • The Raiders will host Chicago on Aug. 23 in their third preseason game.
  • The Lions said they will not trade up to the No. 1 overall pick. Wednesday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper had a mock draft in which the Chiefs, who own the top pick, traded with the Lions, who have the No. 5 pick. Kiper didn’t report the trade would happen; it was only a projection as part of his exercise.
In our AFC West chat Thursday, we talked about the importance of San Diego running back Ryan Mathews catching about 50 passes out of the backfield this season.

Mathews
It prompted me to do some quick research and the results show that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers usually hits his running back in that range. In fact, Mathews caught exactly 50 passes last season. So, I’d think he could get in the 60-catch range this season as the Chargers plan to expand his workload.

Mike Tolbert, now with Carolina, had 54 catches last season out of the backfield. In 2010, Darren Sproles, who went to New Orleans last season, had 59 catches.

Rivers, who took over as the starter in San Diego in 2006, hit LaDainian Tomlinson 56 times out of the backfield in 2006, 60 times in 2007 and 52 times in 2008.

I don’t expect this trend to end now that Mathews will be the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield. His fine performance catching the ball last year clearly gave Rivers and the San Diego coaching staff confidence he can succeed in the role.
Longevity and Super Bowl hardware led the way.

In a surprising landslide, Marcus Allen crushed LaDainian Tomlinson in our poll, asking readers to name the best running back in AFC West history. As of 11:25 a.m. Wednesday, Allen received 64 percent of the vote, while Tomlinson received 36 percent.

I can easily see why Allen won. But it should have been closer.

Allen played 16 NFL seasons -- 11 with the Oakland Raiders and five with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is in the Hall of Fame.

Allen, who earned a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP award with the Raiders, had 12,243 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. He had 123 rushing scores. He added 587 career receptions for 5,411 yards with 21 receiving touchdowns.

Tomlinson recently retired with the San Diego Chargers after re-signing with them. He played with San Diego from 2001-09 before playing the final two years of his career with the New York Jets.

Tomlinson had 13,684 yards in 11 NFL seasons and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry. He scored 145 rushing touchdowns. Tomlinson added 624 career catches for 4,772 yards with 17 receiving touchdowns. He should be a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2017.

Tomlinson has several more dominant years than Allen did, but Allen played a lot longer and won the ultimate prizes. You could go either way and be happy with this one. Thanks to everyone who played along.
Weekend mail call:

Junior Hernandez from San Diego wants to know if Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is back to full health and what kind of impact can he have this season.

Bill Williamson: He has recently said he feels great. Gates, who turned 32 on Monday, has been feeling with foot ailments for years. However, he has fought through it. There is no doubt Gates is entering the twilight of his career. But I still think he can produce three or four more excellent seasons. If he stays healthy, I see him catching around 70 balls and scoring 10 touchdowns.


Hank from San Jose wants to know if I think rookie receivers Rod Streater and Juron Criner can produce right away in Oakland.

BW: Tough question, Hank. I mean, both rookie receivers looked terrific in OTAs. The next step is training camp and the preseason. Let’s see what happens. Criner is a fifth-round pick from Arizona and Streater is an undrafted rookie from Temple. So far, the two look like they belong. But the NFL isn’t easy and OTAs are designed for receivers to shine. But I am interested to see both this year. If either produces as a rookie, it will be a bonus for the team with good overall talent at the position.


Tony from L.A. wants to know if I think LaDainian Tomlinson will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2017.

BW: There’s no doubt about it. He had a special career. His numbers stack up with the greats and there is no doubt he will and should be elected into the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.

AFC West mailbag

November, 3, 2010
11/03/10
4:00
PM ET
Eric from Dallas wants to know if I think Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones can keep up their strong rushing attack all season.

Bill Williamson: Sure, why not? This is the NFL’s best running attack for a reason. Charles and Jones are good players. That isn’t going to change. The offensive line is working well and the Chiefs have a good scheme. The constant attack of Charles and Jones wears defenses down.


Parker Keegan from Spokane wants to know what I think about Denver’s rushing attack under Josh McDaniels.

BW: Obviously, Denver isn’t ready to run the ball the way McDaniels wishes. It has been the worst run offense in the NFL nearly all season. This year, McDaniels went away from the wildly productive zone-blocking scheme of the Mike Shanahan era and is using a more traditional power-blocking scheme. It’s taking Denver time to adjust to the system partly because McDaniels is using rookies J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles in the system. The reason McDaniels moved away from Shanahan’s system after using it last season was he thought the lighter offensive linemen faded at the end of last season. But the change clearly isn’t working immediately.


Nathan from Florida wants to know if I think Oakland running back Darren McFadden should start getting league MVP consideration.

BW: McFadden is having a very nice season. But for a running back to win the NFL MVP award, he needs to be dominant. Since 2000, the only running backs to win the award have been Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson. They all put up ridiculous numbers. McFadden has 668 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Again, he is having a very nice season, but he’d have to really pick up the pace to win the MVP award.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson


The San Diego Chargers’ participation report got somewhat better Thursday, but it is still not great for the team as it heads into a pivotal game Sunday against visiting Miami.

Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson and linebacker Shawne Merriman (groin) both did not practice for the second straight day. Guard Louis Vasquez (knee) didn’t practice again, either. Both Tomlinson and Vasquez missed the Chargers' 31-26 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

It wouldn’t be a shock if Tomlinson and Vasquez both sat out this Sunday as well. You would think they would be getting some type of work by now. Merriman said Sunday that he thought he would play against the Dolphins. His case may be a matter of rest.

Safety Eric Weddle, left tackle Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman all returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session with an illness.

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