LaDainian Tomlinson Becoming Legitimate MVP Candidate

LaDainian Tomlinson Becoming Legitimate MVP Candidate When the Jets signed recently released running back LaDainian Tomlinson back in March, just two months after rendering him useless in the playoffs, there were many who were laughing.

Tomlinson was old. He was slow. He had lost his explosiveness. He was a greedy, selfish bum. He was done.

Through five weeks of the season, the only ones laughing are Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Tomlinson.

Expected to be a backup to Shonn Greene, Tomlinson has made it hard for Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to take him off the field.

Greene fumbled twice in the first half of the Jets' season opener against the Ravens, with one of those fumbles landing in the hands of the Ravens. Everyone who watched Hard Knocks this summer knows how much Ryan hates fumbles, so in stepped the 31-year-old Tomlinson.

Since then, he's been nearly unstoppable.

He's averaging 5.7 yards per carry. That's better than Adrian Peterson (5.5) and much better than Chris Johnson (4.3), considered the two best backs in the game, and it only trails Arian Foster (5.8) among backs with 70 carries or more.

Just as important as the stats, though, is Tomlinson's mere presence on the field. Mark Sanchez doesn't look nearly as shaky as he did in the preseason, and part of that is because he now has two safety valves — Dustin Keller and Tomlinson. The two have accounted for 46 percent of Sanchez's completions this year and 40 percent of his passing yards.

He's been timely, too. With the Jets trailing the Patriots by a point late in the third quarter in Week 2, Tomlinson broke a Rob Ninkovich tackle and exploded to the outside for a 31-yard gain. The Jets took a lead two plays later and never looked back. When the Jets needed a big yard on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth, they wont to Tomlinson. He picked up three yards.

He almost singlehandedly turned the Bills game into a laugher, thanks to his 133 yards and two touchdowns. And he was probably the best offensive player for the Jets on Monday night, when Sanchez was not at his best.

Tomlinson is not going to score 30 touchdowns, and he's not the same player he was from 2002-07. He is, however, exactly what the Jets need, and he's as big a reason as any that they're 4-1 and in control in the AFC East.

There will be questions regarding his ability to stay healthy, especially with how much time he's spending on the field. Those questions are fair for a 31-year-old running back in the NFL. But if he can maintain this pace and the Jets keep winning, there won't be any question that Tomlinson's name will be right in the middle of MVP talks in January.

Did you think Tomlinson had this kind of season in him? Do you think he'll be in the conversation for MVP? Share your thoughts below.

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