Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lorenzo Neal doesn't get nearly enough credit

Lorenzo Neal is an NFL fullback. A really, really good one. Maybe the best of all time. But how would you know? In today's football, the fullback is almost exclusively a blocking back. Someone to 'bust up' linebackers. Lead the running back to glory by clearing the way.

How does one measure performance at this task?

By one measure, Lorenzo Neal is already in elite company -- he's played 14 NFL seasons. Not just 'been on the team', but actually played the majority of plays from scrimmage for 14 years. He's not been significantly slowed by injury despite playing one of the more physically demanding positions on the field.

By another measure, he's also a whiz. 10 straight seasons (including this one) of lead blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher. That's productivity.

But I've got a better measure. One that will shock you with its simplicity and with the way that it demonstrates 'Zo's dominance.

Consider this impressive list of rushing seasons behind Lorenzo Neal's blocking:

Running Back Yards Rushing
2006 LaDanian Tomlinson 1,146 (year to date)
2005 LaDanian Tomlinson 1,462
2004 LaDanian Tomlinson 1,776
2003 LaDanian Tomlinson 1,645
2002 Corey Dillon 1,311
2001 Corey Dillon 1,315
2000 Eddie George 1,509
1999 Eddie George 1,304
1998 Warrick Dunn 1,026
1997 Adrian Worrell 1,084
1996 Mario Bates 584
1995 Mario Bates 951

Totalling the yards from scrimmage for just the featured back in each offense, Lorenzo Neal has paved the way for 15,113 yards in his last 11 seasons in the NFL. That puts him only 156 yards short of Barry Sanders for 3rd (!) on the all-time rushing leaderboard. He'll easily make up that difference in the next two weekends; Walter Payton's 16,726 yards (2nd on the all time list) should be easily achieved by this time next year -- when Lorenzo will be in the last year of his current contract with the San Diego Chargers. Thus, barring injury or catastrophe, Lorenzo Neal should retire with the knowledge that his success is on par with the truly great running backs of all time.

Lorenzo -- you deserve much more credit than you get. We finally 'got it' here in Nashville -- Ahmard Hall is darn good -- but he's no Lorenzo Neal. Yet.


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