11 carries, 4 yards
8 carries, 17 yards
14 carries, 24 yards
25 carries, 141 yards
15 carries, 24 yards
These are the game-by-game rushing totals from Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Through five games, Johnson has 73 carries for 210 yards. He also has 12 receptions for 84 yards. Excluding his 141-yard performance against the Houston Texans, Johnson has 48 carries for 69 yards.
It's just baffling. This is the same person who, during his first three NFL seasons, rushed for 4,598 yards with 34 touchdowns. This includes a 2009-10 season when he ran for 2,006 yards. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry. The 141-yard performance against the Texans was encouraging. However, Johnson accumulated many of his yards in garbage time. It wasn't as impressive as the stat sheet indicates.
Who is the main culprit in the Titans' run-offense? Some fans blame the offensive line. Some fans blame offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. Some fans blame the front-loaded schedule. Some fans blame dumb luck. Some fans blame Johnson. Some fans (like me) proportionate the blame on multiple components.
The Titans can't ignore this problem any longer. It trickles down into other areas on the team. Without any type of running game, the Titans are getting dominated in time-of-possession. The defense wears down because the offense can't stay on the field. The pass-offense is at a disadvantage because of the lack of balance. The opponents' defensive ends can pin their ears back because they don't have to worry about stopping Johnson.
Should the Titans bench Chris Johnson? Since Chris Palmer became the offensive coordinator in 2011, Johnson isn't the only running back whose offensive production has plummeted. In 2010, Javon Ringer had 51 carries for 239 yards (4.7 average). In 2011, Ringer had 59 carries for 185 yards (3.1 average).
Benching Johnson likely won't do any good. Darius Reynaud hasn't excelled in his limited carries. The Titans often don't activate Jamie Harper on game-day. For his career, Harper has 18 carries for 47 yards.
That's four running backs who've struggled since Palmer became the offensive coordinator. That's four running backs who can't produce behind this offensive line. While Johnson is part of the problem, I'd say he's the third-biggest factor.
The offensive line is completely incapable of blocking on a stretch-run play. Therefore, why does Palmer keep calling stretch plays? Those things baffle my mind more than Johnson's struggles.
The Titans have had a 20-game sample to see that the run-offense doesn't work in Palmer's system. Changes are necessary. They must try some different things. If that means benching Johnson for one game, then so be it. At this point, it can't get any worse without him.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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