JUDGE: Chargers need to keep Tomlinson healthy

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Clark Judge

When San Diego running back was carried off the practice field Friday on an electric cart, the future of the rode off with him. For the moment, both are OK, but stay tuned. Tomlinson¿s close call — he suffered a sprained left ankle — exposes the at their most vulnerable position. Short and simple, they don¿t have a backup running back, and Coach Marty Schottenheimer should be concerned. A year ago, Tomlinson carried 339 times. Know how many the ¿ next running back had? Try 29. That was , and while he¿s back this season he¿s better suited as a third-down specialist than he is as Tomlinson¿s caddy. There¿s always undrafted rookie Lew Thomas, but that should tell you something about how deep they are at the position. They aren¿t. And that¿s dangerous for this year¿s . Schottenheimer likes to runs the ball the way Steve Spurrier likes to throw it. As head coach of Washington last year, Schottenheimer handed off to a league-high 356 times, 16 more carries than runner-up . But Davis had behind him when he needed a break. Tomlinson has no one of consequence, and considering the hammering he¿s about to absorb that is not good for the health of the San Diego . Tomlinson isn¿t worried, but the should be. If they have to resort to their passing game — and I don¿t care if it¿s or pulling the trigger — they¿re in trouble. Brees is inexperienced. Flutie is about to turn 40. There¿s no depth at wide receiver. And, most important, Schottenheimer is out of his element. He¿ll pass if he has to, but he¿d rather take his chances with defense and a running back. At Washington, he was 8-3 down the stretch with as his quarterback, but it wasn¿t Banks who made the difference; it was Davis and a rock-solid defense. That¿s why the have a chance with Schottenheimer. They¿re better on defense than they were a year ago when they ranked 11th overall, and Tomlinson can do for them what Davis did for the . In fact, he expects to. ¿Good backs who want to be great want to have the ball in key situations and get it 25-30 times a game,¿ Tomlinson said. ¿I¿m going to get it any way I can, running or receiving, and I get a lot of touches hopefully we¿ll win some games and I¿ll get in the end zone.¿ And if he doesn¿t? The had time to consider the consequences Friday, and they¿re not good. If they don¿t find a backup running back, they absolutely, positively must keep Tomlinson off the injury report. I don¿t care how they do it. Put a quarterback¿s red jersey on him for all I care. But keep him in the lineup. Otherwise, they risk losing more than a running back. They risk losing the season. Senior writer Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address,
Tagged: Bengals, Packers, Redskins, Chargers, Corey Dillon, Tony Banks, Doug Flutie, LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Stephen Davis

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