LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson are the two best running backs in the league. Johnson was the story of 2005, running for 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns despite starting only nine games. This season is the year of Tomlinson, who became the fastest runner ever to score 100 touchdowns and is primed to set the all-time scoring record.
Tomlinson and Johnson have done a lot of amazing things, but neither has ever led the league in rushing. That could change this season, as they are jockeying with Frank Gore for the rights to the rushing crown. LaDainian Tomlinson has 1,427 yards compared to Larry Johnson's 1,432.
Johnson has carried the ball 48 more times than Tomlinson, yet shows no signs of wearing down.
"When you're having fun you don't take a look at how many carries you have," Johnson said. "You just go out there and try to compete as hard as you can and put your team in a position to win."
The Bottom Line
For years, the Kansas City offensive line was seen as the epitome of excellence, the group against which all others were measured. The same five linemen played together for several years, resulting in a stellar sense of cohesion that allowed them to dominate. That elite status began to evaporate back in July when Willie Roaf retired, but the Kansas City line can still move some people.
This season, the San Diego offensive line appears to be the second coming of that blocking dynasty. Terrific line play has allowed the Chargers to rank in the top ten in both yards per carry and sacks allowed. Additionally, the Chargers line features only one starter more than 25 years old (Mike Goff, 30) and just one who isn't under contract for at least two more seasons (Kris Dielman), meaning this unit should continue to gel.
"There is no position on this team that the progress has been more positive and dramatic than on the offensive line," said coach Marty Schottenheimer.
The Rich Get Richer
The signing of nine-year veteran Az-Zahir Hakim will prove to be a coup for the Chargers. In has career, Hakim has over 4,000 career receiving yards and more than 30 total touchdowns. He is an explosive playmaker with terrific acceleration and suddenness.
Hakim will be used in a limited capacity on offense, but could still provide a spark. During his prime years with the Rams, he routinely made opponents pay for double-covering Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Given all the attention drawn by Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, Hakim may be able to exploit opponents in a similar way with the Chargers.
He may take over the team's punt return chores as well, allowing the Chargers to protect Eric Parker, whose presence on offense is too vital to jeopardize unnecessarily.