The Chargers planned to replace Turner with a two-runner committee. The first runner is Darren Sproles, who actually logged more carries than Turner over the second half of last season with the Chargers. The second runner is rookie Jacob Hester, who the Chargers traded three draft picks to acquire in April.
The results on Sunday were telling. Darren Sproles logged only two carries for 9 yards. Jacob Hester registered just one carry and promptly fumbled the ball, with New England's Ty Warren coming up with the recovery.
RB Darren Sproles
Twice in the last four weeks, Tomlinson has played during the final five minutes of the game despite the Chargers owning at least a 20-point lead.
As for Sproles, his lack of touches is not due to a lack of productivity. His average of 5 yards per carry is solid, while his average of 23.2 yards per reception is downright phenomenal. However, because of Sproles' small size and wide-ranging responsibilities, Norv Turner is reluctant to overburden him on offense.
As for Hester, the rookie simply must earn his stripes. Despite's Sunday night's fumble, it is too early to give up on a player this talented.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, who coached Hester during this year's Senior Bowl, went on record as saying he would be "shocked" if Hester does not turn out to be a "damn good football player."
Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber seconded that notion: "Hester is a hard-nosed football player, and I generally don't worry about players who play the right way."
While the future remains bright, the present situation behind Tomlinson remains disconcerting. The Chargers released talented rookie RB Marcus Thomas and relegated productive RB Eldra Buckley to the practice squad so that Sproles and Hester could man the spots behind LT on the depth chart.
It's up to Coach Turner to find better ways to utilize these two, while the players must step up so that LT feels comfortable with the occasional tap-out.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.