LOL regular season?
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson used to be one of the most-feared playmakers in all of sports. During the 2009-10 NFL season, Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to have at least 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry. He accomplished this feat at age 24.
Let's fast forward to the 2012-13 season. Through two games, Johnson has 21 rushing yards on 19 carries. That's an average of 1.1 yards per carry. Against the New England Patriots, Johnson had four rushing yards on 11 carries. He followed that up with 17 rushing yards on eight carries against the San Diego Chargers.
The Titans' ground game has actually regressed from 2011. That's amazing when one considers that they were one of two teams who rushed for fewer than 90 yards per game.
I'm baffled. What has happened to Johnson? The Titans made two modifications in the interior of their offensive line. They signed seven-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Steve Hutchinson. Fernando Velasco also replaced Eugene Amano. These changes have not helped. Somehow, it might have crippled them even more.
In my mind, that leaves four possible reasons for the demise of the running game. Either Johnson is just that bad, Leroy Harris is just that bad, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is clueless, or a combination of these three things.
The Titans obviously don't want to bench a player who they signed to a six-year, $55.26-million contract in 2011. They guaranteed $30 million of that. That's understandable. Honestly, the scheme and play-calling are probably more at fault than Johnson's hesitance in the backfield.
At the same time, they can't keep trotting this product out on the football field. For 18 regular-season games and four preseason games, head coach Mike Munchak has witnessed this run-offense's failures. Adjustments are needed. He must figure out what those adjustments are.
On September 23, the Titans will host the Detroit Lions. For Johnson, this is his 27th birthday. Maybe he can celebrate by running through the Lions' defenders as if they were piñatas. The San Francisco 49ers proved that there were massive holes in the Lions' run-defense. The New Orleans Saints exploited those same weaknesses in the 2012 NFC playoffs.
There are no excuses for another dud performance from the ground game. If Johnson lays another egg, then bench him for one game. Give that start to Javon Ringer (if healthy), Jamie Harper or Darius Reynaud. If the results are negative, then Johnson probably isn't the problem. If they're positive, then maybe Johnson is more at fault than Palmer or the offensive line.
For Titans enthusiasts, there is no "LOL" in this matter. This is a defining moment in Munchak's coaching career. This is a serious issue that could undo all of the good from 2011. Without some threat of a running game, Jake Locker won't have much success. The Titans won't consistently win games.
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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