Two premier running backs, both of whom have led the league in rushing. Multiple Pro Bowl appearances. Workhorse backs for playoff times.
The Bills LeSean McCoy and retired great LaDainian Tomlinson have had similar career paths in the NFL. And Tuesday at Bills Camp, Tomlinson shared some advice for the Bills running back about switching teams in an NFL career.
"It rejuvenates you honestly, when you're able to go to a different place," Tomlinson said this week, after a long post-practice conversation with McCoy. "You go to a place where you're wanted and you go to a place where they know how to play the style you're used to—that was my case."
After nine years in San Diego, Tomlinson finished his career with the New York Jets in 2010 and 2011, under Jets Coach Rex Ryan.
"I knew that their style and their brand of football complemented what I did well," Tomlinson says. "It's no different for LeSean McCoy. He's been in this type of offense before in college. He understands how to get downhill, how to run between the tackles, how to fight for four yards and then the big runs come after that."
Tomlinson was at Bills Camp in his current role as an analyst for the NFL Network. He interviewed McCoy on camera before their long private conversation. LT says he stressed to McCoy how Rex Ryan's focus on a strong running game helped extend his career, and how it will benefit Shady.
"We just talked about the difference Rex brings to a team. He's excited about the things Rex implemented in this offense and the team. He understands that it's going to be all about the run game. It's going to be ground-and-pound, they're going to play great defense, and the quarterback is going to manage the team."
Tomlinson was 30 years old when he went to the Jets via free agency. He was nine years into his likely Hall of Fame career, on his way to 13,684 rushing yards, fifth most in NFL history. In contrast, McCoy has only spent six years in the league and just turned 27 years old last month.
For that reason, LT thinks McCoy has plenty of mileage left and can easily get 300 or more touches in the Buffalo offense this season.
"I think 300 touches, absolutely," Tomlinson says. "Because you have to imagine you'll get anywhere between 250 and 270 carries and then you add on another 50 receptions out of the backfield—he should approach 300 touches. And I think that's perfect for LeSean McCoy."
"He's a guy that needs to be implemented into the passing game as well. He's just two talented not to be used in the passing game."
There's another link between Tomlinson's success and McCoy's future in Buffalo. LT had the good fortune to run behind Pro Bowl FB Lorenzo Neal during his best years in San Diego. This year, McCoy will have Pro Bowl FB Jerome Felton in front of him on many runs. Tomlinson says McCoy should embrace it.
"It's all about the tempo and the rhythm sometimes with a fullback," according to Tomlinson. "You have to communicate very well with your fullback on certain things you like, certain things you want him to do, whether it's the power run and that fullback blowing through there and looking for the first guy. Those are things that take time to communicate and work out on the field."
"LeSean is a smart runner. He's naturally an instinctive runner. I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment running with a fullback."