The Tennessee Titans are in a difficult position. They paid running back Chris Johnson quite handsomely prior to last season. After a lengthy holdout, Johnson struggled mightily to resemble the player who ran for over 2,000 yards in the 2009 season. While many were hoping that was a result of his time missed, the Titans are looking for reasons why Johnson is averaging just 1.4 yards per carry in 2012.
Through three games in 2012, Johnson has 33 carries for just 45 yards. He is averaging 11 carries per game for 1.4 yards per rush. Simply put, there are fat kickers and punters who have better averages than Johnson does with the Titans.
The fact is that opposing defenses no longer respect Johnson’s rushing abilities. They no longer fear him as an explosive offensive weapon for Tennessee. Teams are not stacking the box to stop Johnson and daring Jake Locker to beat them. In fact, it is more the opposite. Teams are trying to slow down Locker and almost daring the Titans to run the ball.
Last week was Johnson’s best game of the 2012 NFL season. he had a season high 14 carries and turned them into a season high 24 yards gained. That is not exactly what the Titans were expecting when they gave him that huge contract over a year ago.
If they wanted that type of production, they could just use a backfield committee of Jamie Harper and Darius Reynaud. Combined, the two are averaging 1.2 yards per carry. That is similar to Johnson, only they are making a fraction of what the Titans are paying their supposed lead back.
Also entering the mix for carries starting this week against the Houston Texans could be Javon Ringer, who is expected to make his 2012 season debut. In past clean up duty for Johnson and Tennessee, Ringer has performed admirably. But while his rushing attempts have gone up in each of his three seasons, Ringer’s yards per carry numbers have gone down each year since his rookie season, dropping from 6.0 all the way down to just 3.1 in 2011.
I don’t want to agree with Johnson on anything, but maybe he does have a point about the offensive line regressing and not opening up holes for the running backs like they did a couple of seasons ago. The numbers of the other backs on the roster would certainly legitimize Johnson’s claims.
Either way, regardless of who the Titans go with in the ground game, this is quickly becoming a passing team. This is becoming Locker’s team.
Johnson may be soon looking for a new team if this continues.