- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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You spend nine years in one place, and you get accustomed to a certain way of doing things. Now that he's on a new team, LaDainian Tomlinson is adapting to two significant changes: 1. Workload, 2. Scheme.
With the New York Jets, Tomlinson is working in a zone-blocking scheme, as opposed to man-to-man. The Jets went to the zone last season, and it obviously paid huge dividends. Basically, in a zone, the linemen block an area instead of a player. When everything is in sync, especially on "stretch" running plays, it creates backside cutback lanes for the runner.
That's what happened on Tomlinson's 43-yard run against the Washington Redskins. It was a stretch play to the right, with the defensive flow moving in that direction. The blocking by C Nick Mangold and LG Matt Slauson opened a crease in the defense, and Tomlinson made a quick cutback to his left ... and was off.
It takes time to make the adjustment. A year ago, Thomas Jones admitted it took him a few weeks before he felt comfortable in a zone scheme. He wound up with 1,400 yards, a career year.
"I've always been a fan of the zone-running scheme," Tomlinson said after the game. "Denver did it over the years I played in San Diego. Watching all those (1,000-yard) running backs in Denver, I always said, 'Man, I wish I could get in that scheme.' I've got a chance now."
He didn't exactly stink in the Chargers' scheme; after all, he's going to the Hall of Fame. Another change: Workload.
In nine preseasons with the Chargers, Tomlinson rushed for a total of 26 times. This summer: 22 carries for 129 yards. And he likes the extra work.
"In years past, not playing in the preseason got me off -- and the team off -- to a bit of a slow start," he said.
That is true, especially in recent years. From 2007 to 2009, Tomlinson's first 100-yard rushing day came in the following games: Fourth, fourth and never, respectively.
From 2001-2006: First, first, third, first, third, first.
"I've always wanted to play, but I've been held back by coaches," Tomlinson said, tweaking his old coaches in San Diego. "I'm not a guy that argues against a coach's authority, so I always went along with it."
Clearly, Tomlinson still has some giddy-up left in those Hall-of-Fame legs. The question becomes whether he can sustain it over 16 games. He predicts big things for him and running mate Shonn Greene.
"We're going to work well together," Tomlinson said. "He comes in an runs over people and past people. I come in and slash. It's Thunder and Lightning. That's what we're going to be."