How can L.T. break free?

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Nick Laham/Getty)

Norv Turner squeezed career years out of running backs like Ricky Williams, LaMont Jordan and Frank Gore. So why isn't he having more success with LaDainian Tomlinson? Perhaps it is time to go back to the drawing board -- the same one left behind by last year's coaching staff.

Former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron deserves as much credit for LaDainian Tomlinson's record-breaking 2006 season as anybody. He used innovative formations and packages to spring Tomlinson and keep defenses at bay.

For example, the Chargers would elephant packages with Shane Olivea moving to the left side of the line in a tight end position. He would be joined on that side by Brandon Manumaleuna and Vincent Jackson, two of the league's best blockers at their respective positions. Cameron would then call for Mike Goff to pull left and allow Tomlinson to use his incredible vision to pick his way through the ensuing chaos.

This elephant package would be the perfect counter to the way defenses are playing the Chargers. The only way to run through a stacked defensive front is to provide as many big bodies at the point of attack.

Another lost formation is the two-back look with Tomlinson in the slot and Michael Turner in the backfield. This forced defenses to declare their intent before the snap and left the Chargers in a win-win position. If a safety walked out with Tomlinson, the Chargers would run Turner against the seven-man front. If a linebacker tried to cover Tomlinson, then Philip Rivers would find No. 21 running up the seam. The two-back look also allowed for swing passes to Tomlinson and play-action passes downfield.

Tomlinson, though, prefers not to dwell on what worked last season.

""This is not last year," Tomlinson said. "People get caught up in what we did last year but this is not last year's team. This is this year's team and I am sick and tired of talking about last year. This is a whole different team. We need to focus on this year and quit looking backwards."

Tomlinson is not concerned with rediscovering last year's formations, only last year's success. After averaging 5.2 yards per carry en route to MVP honors, Tomlinson has mustered just a 2.3 yard average through three weeks.

Nonetheless, Tomlinson is confident that his new head coach has some tricks up his sleeve. After all, this is not Norv Turner's first rodeo.

"We have a great coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, that understands the game and understands how to run against eight-man fronts. We'll get it done," Tomlinson said.

Things won't be much easier in week four against a Kansas City Chiefs team that has held Tomlinson under 70 yards rushing in three of their last four meetings. But as Tomlinson said, the only thing that matters is this year.

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