LaDainian Tomlinson has sky-high expectations with the Jets before even playing a game.
When asked if he would win a Super Bowl with his new team, Tomlinson told ESPN, "Absolutely, no question."
That’s a bold proclamation for a man coming off his worst statistical season since being drafted fifth overall in 2001 by the San Diego Chargers, who released him after the end of last season. Tomlinson rushed for an average of just 3.3 yards per carry and an average of two yards per carry in the postseason in 2009.
At age 31, Tomlinson knows the pressure’s on him to perform in New York.
"I’m tired of being doubted by so many people for what I can’t do," Tomlinson told ESPN. "For a guy like me, my entire career has been driven by that, so I’m very determined to be successful here."
Determined or not, Tomlinson’s role remains undefined. He will compete with second-year running back Shonn Greene for a starting spot on the roster. Greene averaged five yards per carry for a total of 540 yards and two touchdowns in 2009.
While Greene is the current favorite to win the No. 1 job, Tomlinson maintains that starting isn’t necessarily a priority. He expressed willingness to play whatever role the team required of him.
"Whatever they need me to do, whether it’s catching the ball out of the backfield, whether it’s picking up blitzing linebackers or running draw plays or screens or what have you," Tomlinson said.
The fact that New York is the biggest media market in the nation and the Jets are the focus of this year's edition of HBO's Hard Knocks means more scrutiny. With the already built-in distractions that come with playing in New York, Tomlinson’s less-than-modest guarantee is a bit surprising.
But is it realistic?
The Jets’ running back trio of Greene, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington led the NFL in rushing last season.
The Jets added several high-profile players in addition to Tomlinson, including Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes and Jason Taylor. With those additions, some foresee potential locker-room drama. But personalities aside, the Jets have gained a better pass rush, a stronger secondary and a more versatile offense.
The Jets had the No. 1 defense in the NFL last season, and it should be just as good, if not better, in 2010. Cromartie gives coach Rex Ryan more
of an ability to blitz, Taylor can bolster the pass rush and Darrelle Revis is the game's best corner.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez has a year under his belt and the potential to improve, if he can avoid a sophomore slump.
After finishing second to the Patriots in the AFC East and falling just shy of a Super Bowl last season, the Jets are motivated. And with Tomlinson adding fuel to the fire, maybe his prediction isn’t so crazy after all.