Looming Large: LaDainian Tomlinson

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There is one player the Jaguars will concentrate on more than the others in Sunday's matchup vs. San Diego. That player is the one referred to by his initials.

The second half of the season certainly started off the right way for the Jaguars as they went into Nashville and beat the Titans 28-13 last Sunday. Fred Taylor reached a milestone with 10,000 career rushing yards in the home of the team that has been his and the Jaguars nemesis for his entire career. Long time Jaguars fans remember Taylor saying the Jags were better than the Titans at the end 1999, even after they lost their only three games including the AFC Championship that year to Tennessee.

That was last week, and the Jags can't rest on that success as they have an opponent coming to Jacksonville this Sunday in the San Diego Chargers that is starting to resemble the 14-2 team from last year more so than the team that started 1-3 this year.

The Chargers are 4-1 since that terrible start to the year, including a 41-3 victory in Denver, and hanging on for a 23-21 victory over the Colts last week that helped make the AFC South race a whole lot more interesting. The only loss over the past five weeks was a memorable one though, as they gave up and NFL record 296 yards rushing to Adrian Peterson and lost to the Vikings 35-17.

So which team will show up in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon, the team that struggled early on and in the Vikings game or the team that has looked dominant on several occasions this year?

One thing that is sure is that the game will not be short on excitement. It is Fred Taylor's first home game since joining the 10,000 yard club, the Jaguars haven't played in front of the home fans in a month, and two of the premier players in the NFL and future Hall of Famers in Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson will be coming to town.

Given the schedule structure of the league this might be the last chance for fans to see these two play in Jacksonville, and people should cherish that opportunity (we shouldn't have to wait until Thursday to find out if the game is blacked out or not, but that is another story altogether). Gates looks to be on his way to breaking the tight end records that Tony Gonzalez is currently setting and Tomlinson could end up being the best running back to ever play the game. Despite joining the league in 2001, a full four years after Fred Taylor, Tomlinson can become the 22nd member of the 10,000 yard club with 91 yards rushing on Sunday and has already surpassed 100 touchdowns in his career (10th place all-time with 120, 108 rushing).

Tomlinson is the engine that makes the Chargers go, and they will surely look to establish the run early to open up the passing lanes for Phillip Rivers to throw to Gates, Chris Chambers, and Vincent Jackson. As competitive a player as he is, Tomlinson is going to want to come out this Sunday and silence the rumors that Peterson is already the best running back in the league, a title that LT currently holds, and rightly so.

The Jaguars defense has played very well this season except for single-game breakdowns in each phase of defense. They gave up 282 yards rushing (team record) to the Titans in week one and 445 yards passing and 538 total yards (both team records) to the Saints.

Those two games make the defense look much worse on paper than they have actually been. They have repeatedly made big plays and defensive stands to help the team to continue to win with backup Quinn Gray at quarterback. They will need to be on point in both facets to be successful on Sunday in a game that could be a low-scoring defensive battle but could just as easily turn into a shootout if both offenses play to their potential.

L.T. is such a classy player and already one of the all-time greats and I will applaud him for reaching 10,000 yards like any true fan should. I just hope that I'll be doing it from the sports bar next week when the Chargers play the Ravens, as the Jags defense hopefully won't let it happen this week at the Jack for one simple reason.

This Sunday is a celebration of Fred Taylor, the best player to put on a Jaguars uniform in team history.

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