Posts Tagged ‘Ladanian Tomlinson’

Mike Tolbert congratulates Antonio Gates - Tolbert is under the radar but he could make a big difference today at WembleyI hope everyone has a magical day, and that the NFL message reaches thousands, even millions of new people thanks to both BBC and Sky tv coverage and those who are coming to see a game for the first time.

Here are a few lesser known players that I say will have some bearing on the outcome of the game (which I still have the Chargers winning 24-21)…..

Mike Tolbert (pictured left jumping on Antonio Gates) – San Diego Chargers fullback – #35 – He is a rookie that has had to step into the rater large shoes of Lorenzo Neal – who should go to the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players in his position. Tolbert has made 10 catches so far, averaging 13.4 yards a catch, and with so much focus on LT it could be Tolbert that converts some crucial 3rd downs.

Eric Weddle – San Diego Chargers safety – #32 – He is another young player in only his second season, but surprising to some he is leading the Chargers in tackles with 59. He is able to sniff out where the ball is, and is on course for over 100 tackles in only his first full season starting. Weddle will no doubt cover every blade of Wembley grass today, so look out for him laying hits on the likes of Jeremy Shockey and Matt Campbell.

Billy Miller and Mark Campbell – New Orleans Saints tight ends – #83 and #80 – Now people all know Jeremy Shockey and for those at Wembley for the Giants win over the Dolphins they will be familiar with the ink armed warrior. It has been the likes of Miller and Campbell that have been moving the chains in Shockey’s injury absence, and helping Drew Brees to rack up those yards. Both are support acts, but both have great hands, and if the Saints go into a two TE formation they could find gaps in the Chargers secondary for crucial 10 yard gains. Miller in fact is averaging 15.1 yards a catch on his 16 catches which is over a third more than Shockey’s 9.6 on 21 catches.

Kendrick Clancy – New Orleans Saints defensive tackle – #71 – Clancy has bounced round the NFL having played for the Steelers, the Giants and the Cardinals, but he looks to have found a good home in Louisiana. He has started all 7 games this season, gaining 20 tackles and two sacks. Clancy will be one of the guys that fans new to the game will find hard to track in the pile of bodies each down, but Clancy plays hard and can do a great job getting his hands on LaDanian Tomlinson.

Lance Moore – New Orleans Saints wide receiver – #16 – Very quietly Lance Moore actually leads all Saints wide receivers in catches with 32 (for 341 yards) after 7 games. The likes of Marques will get the headlines because he is the stud and coming back from injury, and Devery Henderson has an eye popping 31 yards a catch, but it is Moore that comes up with the clutch catches time after time. With Reggie Bush out for Wembley Moore is also likey to return kicks, so look to #16 having a huge impact on the game as he will no longer be the focus of the Chargers star cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Everyone going have fun – its gonna be like Christmas day for thousands of NFL FANS IN ENGLAND (and the rest of the UK and Europe).

With under a week to go before the San Diego Chargers take on the New Orleans Saints at Wembley NFLFANINENGLAND has some great interview footage below.

I wont claim any credit for any of the interviews below, but seeing as I am sure you will want to read as much as you can with the Chargers and the Saints under a week away, here is three transcripts from earlier today. These interviews are courtesy of the fantastic San Diego Chargers PR staff. Thankyou all.

Coach Norv is in da house - for the 3rd time

Coach Norv is in da house - for the 3rd time

Head Coach Norv Turner

 

 

 

How do you treat this week as far as curfews and free time and things for the players?

“We have a normal schedule.  We have a pretty tight schedule and obviously these first couple days they have a little more time in terms of freedom.  Tuesday is our normal day off.  When we get into Wednesday it’s our regular schedule and then late in the week certainly there will be a curfew.”

 

When they’re at home, do they have a curfew?

“Players living at homes, apartments, houses and whatever … no there’s no curfew when they’re at home.”

 

You were scheduled to practice today.  Why did you decide not to go on the field?

“Our guys worked out.  They went in the weight room and worked out and got a workout in.  Obviously we have a light practice at times at home, but after playing a game, the workout and getting the sweat going is the most critical thing.”

 

Have you had a chance to watch the tape from Buffalo ?

“We watched it quickly and got into it.  Obviously we were in the process of doing that as you guys were speaking with Philip and LT.”

 

What are your thoughts about it a day later?

“The biggest thing … sometimes after the game you make comments and you may be off base and sometimes you’re right.  Obviously we had two critical turnovers, one at midfield when we had the lead and gave them a short field.  We had a critical interception going in (to the endzone) late in the fourth quarter.  The other things we talked about: our inability to get them off the field, in terms of creating pass rush. I thought there were times on third down if we had tackled better we could have gotten them off the field and kept them putting together long drives.  Then we’re not running the ball the way we need to.  We need to run the ball better.”

 

What are your feelings about playing in London ?

“I’m excited.  It’s an exciting trip for me; for our players.  Our guys will handle it well in terms of the preparation.  To play well, preparation is always the key.  We have a great facility here.  The field is in fabulous condition.  The gentlemen that did the work on it and prepared everything did an outstanding job.  We couldn’t ask for a better facility in terms of us getting ready.  I’ve been over here a couple times in the preseason and I know how exciting the games are.  That was preseason, so I know being a regular season game and the way the crowd gets into it and how they respond, it will be exciting for everyone involved.”

 

Last year’s Giants-Dolphins game was played in the rain and was low scoring.  Do you think with conditions being different, scoring may be higher this time?

“I think every year you do this, you learn from it.  I’ve been told the field is in great shape.  We’ve got two very good quarterbacks.  Both teams are capable of scoring points.  I would like to see us score points and hold them down.”

 

What do you expect from the crowd, with it being not just Chargers and Saints fans but a mix of NFL fans?

“Sometimes you don’t know what to expect, but as I said, in my experiences being here, the crowds have been outstanding.  They’ve been loud and full of energy.  It makes for a accelerated atmosphere.”

 

When were you in London before?

“I came here once with the Rams and once with the Cowboys in the late 80’s, early 90’s.”

 

With the fans not really aligned with either team, how do they react?

“It has been a while for me but I do remember it being awfully loud and exciting.”

With the way the season has gone for the Chargers, does this trip come at a good time?

“You really have to do this, and that’s not a pat answer; you really have to do this as an NFL player or coach. The schedule comes out, everything is determined and you know what it is.  You have to get it in your mind and say, ‘Here’s what it is and we’ve got to handle it.’  As I said, I think the fact that the facilities here are so outstanding, they’re going to help our guys get prepared.  Playing well is about preparation.  Whether this comes at a good time or not, it’s what we make of it.  If we do our job and prepare properly and go out and play well and find a way to win the game, then it came at a great time.”

How did you react when you found out the Chargers were going to play in this game?

“My reaction was the same as our players: it was true excitement.  There’s experiences that you get to do and I think a lot of the experiences I’ve had being involved in preseason games overseas, I think of the games I’ve been in involving unusual circumstances, and those are the ones that really do standout.  Getting the opportunity to come over here and play, the excitement of the match up and everything involved, it’ll be exciting for everyone.”

 What type of advantage is it to take one of your road games and play it at a neutral site?

“I’m anxious to see how that plays out.  Obviously I’m sure New Orleans would rather be playing this game in their stadium.  But they’re an awfully talented football team.  They’re a very good football team.  I’m sure they’re going to make this into their home game.”

Its no European Vacation for Phillips

Its no European Vacation for Phillips

Linebacker Shaun Phillips

 

 

 

 

 What is your reaction to traveling to London and seeing your surroundings?

“It’s kind of exhausting, especially coming off a game like we had (in Buffalo ). The whole long flight and everything is a bit exhausting. We’re a mature team. We should be able to respond to whatever we have in front of us.”

 Is this trip a good escape?

“Games are going to be played every Sunday, almost every week anyway. It really didn’t matter if we were playing in London or back in the states. We have to prepare to play a good football team. We have to be mentally ready to play a good football team.”

Why couldn’t the defense get pressure on the quarterback (Trent Edwards)?

“Well, I haven’t seen the tape from this game yet. I can’t answer the question yet on why weren’t able to get pressure on the quarterback. Maybe they just did a great job blocking. I have no idea until I see it. I feel like we’ve been doing a good job throughout the weeks. A lot of times we were half a step away from a sack. Sometimes we get the sack. Sometimes we get the quarterback hit. It’s not like the pass rushing has gone bad. It’s not one particular thing. It’s the back end holding up as well as the front end.”

 

What are you looking forward to the most to see while in London ?

“I would definitely say just playing the game. Playing in front of the London fans is going to be huge. You think of the soccer matches and how huge the soccer matches are, 80, 90 thousand fans screaming. We’re hoping to get that same impact that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”

 

What are your thoughts on Wembley Stadium?

“I don’t know much about it. I haven’t done a lot of background on Wembley Stadium. I know how excited the guys out here get about soccer. English soccer is huge. We’re looking forward to that. We want to have all of the fans screaming and roaring and hopefully not fighting like we see on TV. We’re looking forward to this game.”

 

Do you have any plans to go into the City?

“Maybe I’ll do a little sight seeing tomorrow. Today I’m going to let my body catch up and get adjusted to the time change and the long flight. Rest my body a little bit.”

 

What are your thoughts on going against Drew (Brees)?

“I’m excited because I never got a chance to hit Drew. We played on the same college team and I always use to joke around by saying ‘I’m going to get a hit on you one day’. This is going to be the first time that I get an opportunity to get a chance to hit him. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance and if I do he’ll definitely know about it.”

 

What do you think about what’s he’s done in New Orleans ?

“I expected it. I’ve seen Drew since he was in college. I knew what type of player he was. Once I got to the pros and have the opportunity to be on the same team with him…he’s just a great quarterback. He’s going to continue to do that. I only expect good things and success out of Drew.”

 

Are you happy Drew’s had success?

“Definitely, like I said, I expected it. I see the type of work he puts in and the type of leadership, dedication that he has to the game of football. I expected it from him. It’s not a surprise to me at all.”

 

Is this your first trip to London ?

“No, I’ve gotten a few chances to be here before.” 

 

Are you excited to see anything in particular?

“Probably, the Queen’s palace. I didn’t get a chance to see that. I was out here for Wimbledon and got to see a lot of great players play. That was the big thing I did the last time I came out here last summer.”

 

 

LT looks to be the man with Bush out

LT looks to be the man with Bush out

Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think of the Pennyhill Hotel?

“I think it’s great.  They really have set it up for us and obviously everything around here is put together well.  The practice fields, weight room, locker room, the meals.  Where we’re staying there’s a great spa right there where we can get treatment, so everything looked nice and we’re excited to be here.”

 

You came out this summer to promote this game.  What’s been the difference from what you saw during your first trip?

“I stayed kind of more in London .  This is kind of out a little bit.  We’re kind of to ourselves right now and have a chance to bond as a team.  I think that’s a bit different.  I think once it gets closer to the game when we’re able to go back in town and see the atmosphere of the people of London, I think it will kind of be the same atmosphere I got when I was here earlier.”

 

What did you do during your summer trip?

“I just did media things and promoted the game, got the people excited about us coming over here and playing.”

 

What was the sense you got from people here about their interest in the game?

“I thought they were very excited about us being here.  They were really interested in American football.  I think that’s evident in how many tickets have been sold.  I think they’re pretty excited.  I’m pretty sure they want to see a good game.  That would help.”

 

Were your teammates asking you what to expect once they arrived?

“There were a couple of guys asking what it was like.  One of my guys said, ‘Are there any big guys in London like us or are we going to stand out?’  I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t see too many big guys so you might stand out a little bit.’  Of course he was a lineman, so.”

 

Is there an added importance for you to perform because you are serving as an ambassador for the NFL?

“I think it’s important to have a good showing and to really give the fans something to talk about, a reason to want the NFL to come back and have more games here.  I think that’s important.  Obviously we’re trying to get our game more exposure in the world wide sense.  I think it is important for us to have a good showing.”

 

How do you feel about seeing Drew Brees on the other side?

“I’m excited.  Obviously I’m not excited about competing against him because he’s a heck of a competitor and a (heck of a) quarterback.  That’ll be kind of different but at the same time I think it’ll be fun being out there on the same field with him again but this time hoping that he throws some interceptions.”

 

When you guys were drafted on the same day, did you think you and Drew would spend your whole careers together?

“Of course you think that because that’s the time you’re dealing with now.  You never think about someone leaving as a free agent or what have you.  You just think it’s going to be forever.”

 

Are you happy to see the success he’s had?

“Absolutely.  To me he never ceases to amaze me to be honest with you, all the passing yards he has and touchdowns.  I see in the offseason how hard he works because we workout together.  It doesn’t amaze me the success that he’s having now.”

 

What do you think of Wembley Stadium as a venue for an NFL game?

“I really like it.  When I came here earlier I was just kind of taking in the atmosphere and obviously it was empty at that time, but just wondering what it would be like with people in the stands.  I thought it was a great stadium, really built well and the grass seemed really good.  From what I understand they’ve really been taking care of the grass and making sure that it’s up to somewhat better than last year.  I’m excited.  I really am.  I’m excited to get there and see the atmosphere.  I think it’s going to be great.”

 

What kind of atmosphere do you expect?

“I expect it to be loud and just everybody having a good time.  The only thing for me, I’m not sure who they’re going to cheer for.  It’s like, which team are they going to go for.  I think that will be the interesting thing to see.  I think they’re going to just want to see good football.  They’ll cheer for both teams.  Whoever scores they’ll cheer because really they just want to see a good game.”

 

Aren’t you used to a crowd that acts one way on offense and another when you’re on defense?

“I think that will be kind of different.  When you’re playing at home, obviously on offense you get to have some peace and quiet.  Then you hear it when our defense is out there.  You kind of get used to that.  Then on the road, it’s opposite.  They’re loud when we’re out there.  I think it will be a good mix of just having the atmosphere of just screaming and yelling the whole time.  I think it will be fun.”

 

When you were here this summer, did you have some anonymity or were people still recognizing you and stopping you?

“Actually I was pretty good in terms of people noticing me.  Obviously I had a few people, but I can walk down the street and I kind of forgot what that felt like.  I was happy to do that, just walk down the street and nobody say anything to me.  I kind of enjoyed that.”

 

Sunday’s game is a night game here.  Do you enjoy playing at night more?

“It’s a great time for us.  Again, it brings out that kid in you.  In high school playing at night a lot and even in college.  It just brings back that feeling that you had in high school or college playing under the lights.  We always felt like that was special.  Even in the National Football League, you really feel like playing in the atmosphere that’s under the lights and the crowd and two teams at night, it just really gets you going.  If you can’t get ready for a night game then you don’t need to be playing football.”

 

Now that you’re here being 3-4, is this a good time in the season for the trip?

“I think it is.  It is a good escape for us.  Obviously losing yesterday, a lot of guys are really down about that loss.  I think it really gives us time to take a deep breath, time to get away from the national media in the States and just have some time to ourselves and really just get close and bond a little bit.  I honestly think that’s why the Giants were successful last year.  They were kind of going through the same struggles.  They came here and it kind of changed their season.  We’re hoping for the same kind of luck.  Hopefully London brings us that.”

 

You don’t think it was a coincidence that the Giants won the Super Bowl after coming to London ?

“No I don’t.”

 

Just 72 rushing yards against Buffalo .  What’s your reaction to that?

“We’ve got to have more opportunities.  I think that’s obvious.  When you don’t get opportunities, I think we talked about this earlier, you don’t get in a rhythm of running the football.  It becomes tough on you to try to do anything if you don’t get a chance to get in a rhythm.  Obviously for me, 14 attempts, that’s not enough.  At the same time, we only had 48 plays.  We’ve got to have more plays and hopefully we start to get more plays.”

Quarterback Philip Rivers

On Surroundings:

“It’s awesome. It’s a beautiful place and very nice. Probably as nice as any place we’ve ever stayed in. We’re looking forward to having a good week. The set-up here, the weight room, the locker room, it’s very accommodating. Hopefully we can zero in and get ready for the game, and certainly also enjoy being here.”

 

On the practice field at PennyHill Park Hotel reminding you of a high school field:

“Yes, it does. It’s really nice. The weather, it’s cool. It will have a little bit of a high school or college-like feel…kind of a backyard feel to it in the whole set up. It’ll be fun. It will be less of distraction maybe than we anticipated, and more of a boost. Change it up a little bit. The transition has been about as smooth as it can be, getting over here today. Obviously a long night, but it’s been good. I already feel like we’re pretty much settled in.”

 

On playing with Drew Brees on the other sideline:

“It’ll be fun. We’re not playing one another (directly), but certainly having been on the same team and obviously he meant a great deal to the Chargers when he was here. I know he’ll be looking forward to the game. It’ll be fun. As far as the game is concerned, (you have) two teams that really need a win. It’ll be as much that has been made of the trip over here and the week’s festivities, and all that kind of stuff. When it comes down to the game, it’s a big one for both of us.”

 

On how giving of his time he’ll be for the NFL’s taste:

“Our game and the preparation comes first. It’s the only game, once a year and we’re that team, so certainly there are some things that come along with it; responsibilities. We’ll manage those. The biggest thing I am going to do individually is try to get in that same routine as we do back there (home). The surroundings will be different, where you watch the tape and stuff like that will be different but I’ll treat is just the same as I would any Monday and Tuesday and then go from there.”

 

On if coming to London makes it easier to put the Buffalo game behind you:

“You have to in this league, especially as we’ve seen this year. We’ve had to do this a couple times, put a tough loss behind us and move on, and get on to the next one. It’s allowed us to move on. You have so many different things you have to worry about and get adjusted to, you’ve already moved on to the next week. But certainly we’ll get in here and watch this tape (and) it’ll all come right back to us. It’ll settle in how we played and how we can correct it and get better. The taste of that loss isn’t gone by any means. It was a big game that we lost yesterday, and we know that, but we’re going to have to rebound. We’ve done a good job of rebounding every week. We just have to find a way to get over the hump of trading wins and losses, and hopefully make a little run here.”

 

On handling distractions while in London :

“It certainly can be. We’ll have to manage it. Those are things you don’t get an opportunity to do or see some things that are out here. I know for me, and I’ll bet a lot of the guys, we’ve never been out of the country. Those things are fine. Go have fun, and enjoy it. Soak some of those things in. As long as it doesn’t creep in or get in the way of what we’re trying to get done, which is win a game. You certainly can enjoy those things this afternoon and Tuesday when we’re off, and still get in the preparation we need to get in to go win the game on Sunday.”

 

On his first thought when he knew the Chargers were coming to London :

“You really tie the two together, Buffalo and then New Orleans , just because of the trip. You knew you weren’t coming home. It wasn’t a get-on-a-plane-to-San-Diego-and-go-London. I don’t know. It (Rivers’ feelings) was mixed. Certainly you realize what can come with it is a lot of…I don’t want to say a hassle because that’s not the (right) word. But it certainly can be strenuous on the schedule and the time and our bodies, but at the same time it’s exciting. It’s something new. There’s only one (international) game every year, and being that game against the Saints is a good match-up. Mostly positive (thoughts). The way the NFL structured it is outstanding with the bye week following it so we can recover from the trip next week. We have to zero in though and get to .500 at the halfway point, which is not where we wanted to be but it leaves us at a spot where we still have a chance.”

 

On what he anticipates from London natives when he and his teammates are out on the town:

“I think it’ll be a lot of fun. You kind of don’t know. You don’t know how much they pay attention or care. But certainly I imagine it’s a treat for them here too. Something different. From what I gather, I don’t know exactly the capacity of the stadium, but they say it’s just about full, and people are excited. It’ll be fun. Thus far the hospitality has been great. It seems like a very polite, nice town. The airport and how all that ran was so smooth. I know it’s tough when there are 100 or so people coming through there like that. To get us all in and out of there smoothly…it was a smooth process.”

 

On his relationship with Saints’ Quarterback Drew Brees when he was with the Chargers:

“It was good. It was really good. We had a handful of golf matches off the field, but as far as the quarterback room and how everything flowed, it was good. I tried o help as much as I could but stay out of the way at the same time. When a guy has his routine as a starter, you don’t want to bother him but certainly you want to help if you see something. I thought it worked really well. We pushed one another hard. We both handled it well. We both respected one another and knew we were both just here battling to be the guy. It’s worked out for both of us. I think a lot of Drew, and obviously what he’s done down there in New Orleans has been outstanding.”

 

On what Drew Brees taught him:

“Yeah. The one thing he did was the routine approach he took. After a big Monday Night win or Sunday Night win like we had in New England , he was doing the same thing on Monday or Tuesday. If we get beat, like we lost those first two tough ones, he was doing the same thing. That was key because you realize it’s a long year, you’re going to lose some games, you’re going to play not as good as you want to in some games, but you come back in there on Tuesday and you’re doing the same routine Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That’s the only way to go when you’re talking about 20-plus weeks. That was the one thing, although it’s not the same routine, we all have our different ways of doing it, is find that routine and what works and stick with it all year long.”

 

On if he expects a high scoring game:

“You never know. I think you prepare every week for it to be a defensive battle and try to win 10-7, and certainly with these two offenses, it could. We have faith in our defense, so hopefully not. But we’re ready every week, offensively, to score as many points as we need to to win. We’ve done that so far three times and haven’t done it four times. So certainly this is a big game for us to go out there and play well.”

 

On the coincidence of the Giants winning the Super Bowl after playing in London last year:

“I don’t think you can put too much stock into that. We would love to have it happen again. Come here and win and hopefully win a bigger one later. No, I don’t think there is any (correlation). It’s fun. We’re excited to be here and play. The match-up is fun. It’s a team you don’t play very often. The preparation from that standpoint, you have to zero in on them. It’ll be a fun week and hopefully it ends on a high note on Sunday.”

 

On how frustrating it might be to have so much talent but the record not reflecting it:

“It’s hard to say it’s frustrating because we still feel the guys we have in there, even banged up, and the guys that are healthy, that we can go in there and score points, and go out there an win games. I think that’s the frustrating part. We walk off the field and go, ‘how is this happening?’ That’s every year. Every team deals with injuries and different things. We’re dealing with it off the bat. There are other teams that are too. Hopefully we can get it going and get healthy as this season goes along and be in a position to hopefully be playing in January.”

 

On the running game not being as good as expected:

“You keep working. I don’t know if there is one element of the running game to point to. You just keep working and keep grinding. Just keep going. I don’t think there is any magic answer I can give you, other than you just keep grinding it out. There will be a time when it will all click and go, and hopefully that’s going to be soon. We do a lot of good things. You watch the tape and there are so many good things on there. You look up and there’s 14 points. The turnovers hurt us yesterday. At the same time, it hurts you in the amount of plays. I think we had 49 plays. When you have 70 plays you think about how many different things you could have done. If you’re controlling the football and not turning it over. It all goes hand-in-hand. We just have to play better in all three phases.”

How many non-NFL obsessives can name this man ?

How many non-NFL obsessives in the UK can name this man ? Judging by the NFL marketing effort for the London game just two weeks away - not many.

I have a few observations with just over two weeks before the San Diego Chargers play the New Orleans Saints in London, England …..

As a registered NFLUK member I seem to keep getting emails saying that tickets are still available, whether it is returns or TicketMaster just magically finding the odd billet down the back of their proverbial sofa.

I get the feeling this game is not going to be a sell out, just like last year when there were large sections near the field that were covered in a tarpaulin and used to advertise products.

I also spend some of my day job reading UK newspapers and magazines (I am a press officer so it’s legit!) and I am certainly hard pressed to find articles on the Chargers players, the Saints players or any reference to the NFL.

We suffered badly in the UK last year when the only weekly American Football magazine in Europe ceased to exist.

No-one has taken up the baton to produce an American Football newspaper or an American sports magazine. Yes we can buy a sanitised ‘European’ version of USA Today, and if you are lucky enough to live in a big town like London or Birmingham you can pick up ESPN magazine or the Sporting News at Borders in a shopping centre, but the copies are next to useless as they are at least two weeks to a month old.

The NFL will put a load of glossy spin on the success of the game that will be played at Wembley Stadium on October 26, but I would like to ask the following questions

1) How many of the tickets allocated for the game were actually sold to real fans and how many were allocated by the NFL as corporate freebies to advertisers, journalists and general corporate spongers?

2) Have the NFL conducted thorough research to engage with new fans ? I would put money on more than 750 in 1000 people interviewed randomly on Oxford Street in London or New Street in Birmingham not being able to fill in the blank ….Name the team The San Diego ________? The New Orleans ______?

Don’t get me wrong I love the NFL and I will love being at the game, I just question what is being done to actively promote the NFL to people outside London ? Not a fat lot from where I am sitting.

Any thoughts let me know…………………..

Run Reggie Run and maybe catch a few passes too - Photo by J Robbins

Run Reggie Run and maybe catch a few passes too - Photo by J Robbins

Someone posting on my blog this week made the remark that the New Orleans Saints had an impressive outing running the ball in Week 1 after I put in a post that two backs that both got around 5o yards on the ground each was not exactly setting the world alight.

I stick by that, but I did say at the time that Reggie Bush could legitimately catch 150 passes in a season. Bush is creating a position that is almost unique, a dumpoff back that is gameplanned to be dumped off to as a first resort by Drew Brees, not a last resort after seeing a primary and secondary target man marked.

I call him the best wide-back in the NFL !

It got me thinking who is the best catching running back in NFL history (past and present combined) ?

Well here are the top running back/full backs listed by the amount of regular season receptions they have made Up to end of 2007, and the team they had the most impact on and then average catches per year (in brackets)

TOP 5 all time – all retired

Larry Centers – 827 catches – Arizona Cardinals – Full Back – 1990-2003 (64 catches a year)

Marshall Faulk – 767 catches – St Louis Rams – Running back – 1994 – 2005 (70 catches a year)

Keith Byars – 610 catches – Philadelphia Eagles – Fullback – 1986-1998 (51 catches a year)

Marcus Allen – 587 catches – Los Angeles Raiders – Running back 1982-1997 (39 catches a year)

Tiki Barber – 586 catches – New York Giants – Running back  1997-2006 (65 catches a year)

Top 5 – active all playing in 2008 in NFL

Warwick Dunn – 463 catches –  Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1997 – now (46 catches a season)

LaDanian Tomlinson – 458 catches – San Diego Chargers  – 2001 – now (76 catches a season)

Edgerrin James – 418 catches – Indianapolis Colts – 1999 – now (52 catches a season)

Michael Pittman – 415 catches – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1998 – now (46 catches a year)

Ahman Green – 364 catches – Green Bay Packers – 1998 – now (40 catches a season)

Where does Reggie Bush fit in ?

Reggie Bush – 161 catches – New Orleans Saints – 2006 – now (81 catches a season)

Other current contender in the NFL

Brian Westbrook – 347 catches – Philadelphia Eagles – 2002 – now (69 catches a season)

So what do the numbers tell us ? Well if we extrapolate Reggie Bush’s season average over a 10 year period then you have Bush at 810 catches and he becomes the all time greatest catching running back in NFL history.

Both the Chargers LT and the Eagles Brian Westbrook have proved over a longer period that they are true dual talents both running and receiving – Westbrook has two 1,200+ rushing seasons to add to his catches and LT has a mind blowing 7 1,200 yard + ground yard seasons.

Reggie Bush is in my opinion not a #1 running back but he is an All Pro wide-back – maybe I have given Reggie a title that matches his talents ! He is not a 1,500 yard running back but he is a 1,500 yard a season gainer (not even including his punt returns). 

Who do you think the best wide back is in NFL history ?

389 tackles in three NFL seasons is quite a respectable output for a linebacker, averaging almost 130 tackles a season. Problem is it wasn’t enough for the New York Jets to keep Jonathan Vilmaon their roster, and in February this year he was traded to the Wembley bound New Orleans Saints.

The Saints starting linebackers from 2007 were hardly the same class as the great Saints ‘backers of the late 1980s (the Dome Patrol of Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, Ricky Jackson and Vaughan Johnson) with Mark Simoneau, Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle all performing to their best ability, but lets be frank, not at a Pro Bowl standard.

Vilma on the other hand is already a Pro-Bowl veteran, having made the game as an alternate in 2006, following on from his outstanding 2005 season, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The big debate as far as Vilma goes is that he was playing in the wrong defensive scheme as a New York Jet, in a 3-4 defense, but has found a true calling with the Saints as the star inside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

Vilma’s 2007 season was a write-off after just 7 games, with  a bone defect. This means the Saints were taking somewhat of a gamble by picking up his tab.

I will be really looking forward to seeing Jonathan Vilma roam the hallowed Wembley turf for the NFL International game against the San Diego Chargers on October 26.

Vilma is no Ray Lewis, and he is certainly not the same type of defender as the Chargers 2006 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Shawne ‘Lights Out’ Merriman, as he is disciplined as a tackler, and does not spend his time trying to crush quarterbacks.

He has the opportunity with the Saints to become an instant fan favourite, and get around 110 to 120 tackles and maybe even three or four turnovers.

Lets hope Vilma’s road to recovery from his disappointing 2007 campaign runs through London, and over 80,000 fans get to see Vilma wrapping up the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates in the Red Zone of a most likely soggy Wembley Stadium.

I think Vilma will make a solid comeback and help propel the Saints to a wild-card and a record of 10-6.

How far the Saints can go if they make the playoff party is anyones guess after the Giants shocked the NFL world to lift the Lombardi Trophy in 2008 (via Wembley of course !!!) .

Will Vilma be a stud or a bust – give me your views…………

I have to admit the rookie the San Diego Chargers drafted that I am most looking forward to seeing at Wembley in October is so far unsigned fullback Jacob Hester, as he is the man who will be asked to sacrifice his own neck in order to block for LaDanian Tomlinson – still judged by many including www.nfl.com as the number one fantasy football player. Let’s be honest LT II would not have been the mega-stud he has been without some solid offensive line play and the human rhinocerous former Bolt fullback Lorenzo Neal (see pic).

This post was triggered by the news yesterday, 2 July 2008, that the Chargers signed two late round picks from the 2008 NFL Draft, running back Marcus Thomas and tackle Corey Clarke.

When I went to Florida on holiday last November I went to see the University of Central Florida beat the University of Texax El-Paso Miners 36-20 – home to Thomas,  a 6ft, 215, back who ran for for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior at Texas-El Paso. Maybe I was a curse  that steamy Saturday on the at BrightHouse Network Stadium in November as Thomas ran for a devastating -1 (yes minus one) yard on 9 carries – averaging -0.1 yards a carry – hardly someone to have Ladanian turning his back in a hurry. The Chargers selected Thomas in the fifth round with the 166th overall selection.

If I was the Chargers GM (don’t we all want to be an NFL GM – dream job or what) I would focus some energy into getting Hester signed. No this particular Hester will not be returning punts 95 yards for a score every other week like his Windy City namesake, but in a world where establishing a quality running game is key to success having a no-neck fullback acting as a silent but deadly weapon, brushing away linebackers like a janitor sweeping away Autumn leaves, is the difference between mediocrity and and NFL playoff aristocracy.

I’m not sure how badly LT is missing Lorenzo Neal, but I know if I had a block of granite in front of me every play, I am one happy and confidfent dude. With a rookie now paving my way against the likes of Derek Johnson, Kirk Morrison, Gary Brackett and Jonathan Vilma (at Wembey !!!) I’m not sure I am going to be as relaxed.

What memories do you have of your favourite fullbacks ? And do you think LT will miss Lorenzo Neal ? I would love to hear your thoughts ………….