LaDainian Tomlinson still has a little gas in the tank. Maybe more than a little.
The 31-year-old running back caught two passes for 85 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown dash on the first play from scrimmage, in the Jets’ annual Green and White Scrimmage Saturday night at training camp in Cortland.
All went according to plan for Tomlinson, who has been faced with questions about his durability and impact since day one of camp.
“It’s pretty exciting, and that’s the point,” he said. “Like we talked about before, that was my plan, to show people I can still play this game. I’ve still got a lot left in the tank. I think coming out here, people start to see that I have a lot left in the tank.”
No one was more pleased with the former Pro Bowler’s performance than Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who referred to Tomlinson as the “best third-down back in the league.”
“”He’s outstanding as a receiver, out of the backfield and also flexed out,” said Ryan. “We never had that last year. When Leon (Washington) went down, we lost that.”
Tomlinson’s touchdown reception was a designed go-route where the veteran running back simply beat linebacker David Harris down the left sideline.
“Schotty (Brian Schottenheimer) called the play,” said Tomlinson. “I knew I had one-on-one coverage and I just wanted to make a play for the team. Mark (Sanchez) threw a great ball. I went and got it and scored a touchdown.”
“It’s something we’ve been working on…When you come out here and do it in a game type of situation, then the coaches really see when the lights are on who’s going to step up. So it was good to come out here and do that. We have to continue to build on it and it was a great day today, and it was a good start. We look forward to continue to make progress with our offense.”
The emergence of Tomlinson would be an added bonus for a Jets offense which led the league in rushing last season and bolstered their receiving core with the acquisition of Holmes this offseason. If Tomlinson can prove to doubters that ‘09 was indeed a fluke, his playmaking ability out of the backfield, combined with the ground and pound of RB Shonn Greene could elevate the Jets offense to elite status.
“I think that’s our focus,” said Tomlinson. “We want to be an all weather football team, to be able to go anywhere, and be able to perform at a high level. Whether we have to run the football, whether we have to throw it, we want to be able to do both. With the guys we have we can definitely make that happen.”
Tomlinson wasn’t the only Jet making big plays. WR Santonio Holmes caught balls for 29 and 33 yards and rookie RB Joe McKnight busted off a 25-yard dash and hauled in a 9-yard reception.
“That scrimmage today was amazing,” said Holmes. “For us to come out and get it done on the first play, Mark (Sanchez) found a mismatch and found LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) running down the sideline. I think that was a great start to how we want this team to start come the first game of the season.”
Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 3 of 7 passes for 114 yards and a TD. K Nick Folk misfired on his only attempt of the scrimmage, a 38-yarder. WR David Clowney, who missed both of today’s practice due to personal reasons, did not participate or attend the scrimmage.
The announced crowd for the scrimmage was 9,500.