Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Mar 2010

ESPN: Tomlinson Inside-The-5

This week's ESPN article is on the performance of backs inside the 5-yard line, a topic I've discussed more than once but haven't written (from what I remember, at least) a full story on. This covers LaDainian Tomlinson's performance and the player who had a historically-bad performance inside the 5-yard line in 2009.

For those of you who aren't ESPN Insiders, don't fret; we'll be doing a detailed piece on this performance split with way more numbers in Football Outsiders Almanac 2010.

For some reason, the chart I sent along with LaDainian Tomlinson's career numbers didn't make it through. I've included that table below.

Year Actual TDs Expected TDs Difference
2001 9 9.3 -0.3
2002 10 8.3 1.7
2003 8 4.3 3.7
2004 12 12.4 -0.4
2005 12 7.9 4.1
2006 15 8.7 6.3
2007 5 5.2 -0.2
2008 7 5 2
2009 9 11.3 -2.3
TOTAL 87 72.5 14.5

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 16 Mar 2010

6 comments, Last at 18 Mar 2010, 1:19am by huh?


by tally :: Tue, 03/16/2010 - 4:15pm

It's really weird how LDT has been reborn as a goal-line back in terms of perception. He's always been a very versatile back who doesn't have to leave the field on any down or distance, including the goal line, but hardly a specialist.

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 03/17/2010 - 11:29am

But as the years go on and you can do less and less... eventually all that remains is the drive to win. And thus the greatest all-around RB of all time is now thought of as a goal-line back.

by tuluse :: Wed, 03/17/2010 - 8:34pm

Walter Payton was never thought of as a goal-line back.

by huh? (not verified) :: Thu, 03/18/2010 - 1:19am

Maybe if he hadn't scored 30 fewer TDS than LT (in 3 fewer seasons) he might have earned that reputation.

by Scott C :: Tue, 03/16/2010 - 7:30pm

Funny how those numbers line up closely with the Chargers Offensive Line stats such as ALY and Power% . . .

by SJT (not verified) :: Wed, 03/17/2010 - 4:53pm

Sample size plays a role here, as does opponent and game situation. Both of those "missing" TDs came against the Chiefs in blowout situations.

I remember one play last year where LT was falling in for his 3rd TD against the Chiefs at home, and fumbled literally on the one foot line. Totally uncharacteristic for him, much less any back. But there goes one of his missing TDs.

The other was in KC. The Chargers were destroying the Chiefs and wanted to get a cheap late TD for LT, so they proceeded to slam him into a goal line defense but apparently decided that blocking for him wasn't really that important. He was stopped and "lost" another TD.

I also remember him fighting through multiple tacklers to jam in far more important TDs against good defenses like Dallas, Philly, and Denver. So I wouldn't count him completely out yet, especially behind what should be a much better Jets O-line.