Brees will give way to Tomlinson

The San Diego Chargers, bereft of an offensive line, will have no choice but to rely on LaDainian Tomlinson – not much different than any other week this season – are you listening Pro Bowl voters? With a last chance to evaluate Drew Brees, the loss of their line compromises the ability to fairly evaluate the young signal caller as they head into the offseason.

"The big thing I learned from sitting on the sideline is that this game does not have to be as complicated as we try to make it sometimes -- as I try to make it sometimes," Drew Brees said.

The truth will unfold on the field. Last week Brees had happy feet in the pocket and seemed to lose some of his pocket awareness, resulting in two lost fumbles. Add to that the offensive line woes and it is has disastrous implications for the coming week in Pittsburgh.

Considering it was the first two he lost all year – he did fumble twice before this season but it was recovered by the Chargers both times – it was likely just some jitters from being back on the field.

There are serious concerns about the line, which will force Brees to have quicker reads and throws that come out of the chute rapidly.

It will also put the ball in LaDainian Tomlinson's hands more often, if possible. That is never a bad thing and Green Bay can attest to that:

"That guy is an incredible player," Green Bay LB Hannibal Navies said of Tomlinson. "He is going to be a dominant player in this league. We focused on him all week and he still hit some big plays on us."

When the Chargers offense is strictly based on how well Tomlinson performs, it is even more amazing. It is hard to fathom outside of San Diego just how valuable our "LT" is. People will say that Portis' numbers would be better if he didn't have other options! Priest would score more if Gonzalez wasn't there. To them I say, just watch the Chargers. Take away all the Pro Bowlers and tell me how they do. I have tissues when you need them.

Marty Schottenheimer recently said he is the best back he has ever seen. Not bad for the third year back that won't go to the Pro Bowl unless someone gets hurt.

"I don't think there's any doubt (that LaDainian Tomlinson changes how they will play defense)," Pittsburgh Head Coach Bill Cowher said. "I think this guy is a very special player. If he's not, he's one of the best running backs in the National Football League. He hasn't received a lot of recognition because of the lack of success San Diego has had this year, but he can catch the ball, he runs the ball and you have to be aware of him at all times. He's that type of player. He's a very special player."

It boils down to recognition. While other backs are getting accolades for their accomplishments, Tomlinson's deeds go unnoticed outside of San Diego. Media markets with a stronger football presence get the regular spot in front of national audiences.

The only real problem with the Chargers running game is in the red zone. They don't have many real threats that cause opponents to back off the line. That has hurt Tomlinson's production.

"We are not running the ball very well in (the red zone)," said Schottenheimer. "We have tried to run it, but we just don't seem to get much yardage."

Schottenheimer would not admit it was a personnel issue – instead he pinned it on execution.

"We have had quite a number of mental errors in the running game and they are all basic things we have been doing since the offseason program."

Schottenheimer went on to say the playbook has been "pared" down and complex plays were thrown out to make things easier for the makeshift offensive line.

Yet if it wasn't personnel, why cut down on the playbook?

What has happened is vanilla in the red zone with a banana split is needed. The run, run, pass mantra in the red zone cannot be avoided when the team is devoid of talent in other areas. As linemen fall with four now on injured reserve, it has made running the ball more difficult for Tomlinson. Only recently has Tomlinson been used as a receiver in the red zone to take the pressure off his running game.

Tomlinson taking pressure off Tomlinson…

And the Pro Bowl voters can't even recognize the great ones.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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