Michael Saenz

Johnson, Titans Need To Address Lackluster Running Game

Created on Oct. 24, 2013 2:31 PM EST

There was a point in the season when the Tennessee Titans were top-10 as a team in rushing yards per game. Then again, there was also a time when the Titans were two games over .500. Times change. 

Fast forward three games, in the Titans case three losses later, and Tennessee is well into their bye week sitting pretty at 3-4 with a middle of the pack, mediocre rushing game. Correlation? Maybe, probably. 

But let's just call it what it is. Call out who really needs to be called out. Yeah, you Chris Johnson. 

Johnson has 366 rushing yards this season. He's averaging 3.2 yards per carry, easily the worst of his career. He's on pace for 836 yards, it would be the first time in his career when he would fail to reach 1,000 yards in a season. What went wrong here? 

Last season, with a lesser offensive line, Johnson ran for nearly 1,300 yards and averaged nearly five yards per carry. The Titans addressed their offensive line this offseason, but he's much less effective.

Has he just lost it? 

While I think that is a pretty interesting take to have, I don't think we can entirely run with that premise until we give Johnson a fair shake. That fair shake would be to allow Johnson to get an opportunity to finish this season. At which point, the Titans might be forced to look at the option of trading the once great CJ2K. I mean CJ1K. Ouch. 

It should be noted that Johnson has faced six of the top-10 defenses in the NFL in his first seven games. Actually, that should carry some good weight when analyzing Johnson's productivity and the entire Titans offensive productivity. 

Still, the fact that Johnson is only averaging about 53 rushing yards per game is poor. It's just not good. Not for the Titans, not for the offensive line and certainly not for Johnson. 

If it's any consolation, however, the Titans next two opponents are 22nd (Rams) and 28th (Jaguars) in total defense. Johnson and the Titans are going to have a chance to get back on track.

Maybe Johnson can pick it up and get back to a sixth straight 1,000-yard season. He might, he might not. The thing is that there was a real pattern in victories and the Titans run effectiveness. When Tennessee was an above average team at running the football, they produced wins. When they weren’t, they lost. It's not rocket science. 

The Titans need to run the football and be productive in doing so. If not, the Titans have no chance. Tennessee has to find a way to win six of their last nine games to have a shot at playing in January. I just can’t see that happening if Johnson doesn’t return to his old self. 

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