LaDainian Tomlinson: A “wide receiver” will break TD record

Remember when San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson broke the single-season touchdown record? I mean, how could you forget? It was one of the most memorable moments in NFL history.

It’s been over 10 years since that very day, and what a day it was. LaDainian Tomlinson, one of four 2017 Hall of Fame finalists, still holds that record. Does he see anybody breaking it some day?

Freelancer Sam Benson Smith, who’s currently in Houston primarily covering the New England Patriots for Super Bowl LI, interviewed Tomlinson on Thursday about a potential record breaker. He was kind enough to send us the story, so check it out below!

18 is a feat nowadays. When LeGarrette Blount barreled into the Dolphins end zone untouched in Week 17, he capped off one of the best scoring seasons by a running back in recent memory.

18 touchdowns, the highest year-end total since Adrian Peterson in 2009.

NFL’s scoring pinnacle, not even within a screaming distance of the first 10 rows of the all-time stat sheet. In 2005, Blount’s season would place him tied for the bronze in the scoring race, nine shy of Shaun Alexander’s 27. He would be a full 10 shy of LaDainian Tomlinson’s all-time record of 28, set the next season.

The NFL is becoming a passing league, days of I-formation base sets long in the rearview.

Tack on receiving touchdowns, and the narrative remains largely the same for modern running backs. David Johnson’s versatile set of tools and darkhorse MVP season put the Cardinals’ running back at 20, 11 shy of L.T.’s total of 31 in 2006.

Tomlinson himself believes, however, that the player to take his title won’t be in the backfield, but closer to the numbers.

“Maybe by a receiver,” Tomlinson said. “Not by a runner. I don’t think runners get enough opportunity to break the record, but a receiver it’s definitely possible.”

L.T’s prediction would seemingly be against precedent; just three receivers have ever cracked the top 36 scoring seasons of all time.

For his record-breaking season, Tomlinson was rushing behind one of the most prolific modern fullbacks in Lorenzo Neal, but as the league continues to move in a new direction, that pure lead blocker position seems to be disappearing.

The Super Bowl contenders seem to be an exception to the rule at this point; New England employs James Develin in certain sets, while Atlanta uses Patrick DiMarco. Tomlinson thinks that the position needs to change for the times.

“There’s always going to be a place for fullbacks,” Tomlinson said. “I think fullbacks are starting to become more versatile. They can be H-backs now, which lines kind of almost on the line of scrimmage and can run routes out the backfield. “

Tomlinson pointed out a prime example of the hybridization of the position in Green Bay.

“Even the kid in Green Bay [Ty Montgomery] he’s in the backfield sometimes as the single back, running with the football. I think fullbacks now have to be diverse and present some type of versatility on the offense.”

Since the dawn of time (read: 2009), media outlets have been waxing poetic about the possible extinction of the fullback. Players may disagree, but the numbers are pretty straightforward.

– Story originally by Sam Benson Smith. Follow him @SamBensonSmith

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