Tuesday, August 7, 2012, 10:06am
The Titans installed more Run ’N Shoot offensive concepts this offseason, and although the competition for the starting QB job is open between Matt Hasselbeck and second-year pro Jake Locker, the Titans have big plans for Chris Johnson, who has benefitted from a full offseason in the system.
Titans coach Mike Munchak stayed with the Titans’ offense and the Falcons’ defense during the practice that used the football stadium and a baseball outfield that had half a football field painted in it.
“I thought CJ looked quick,” Munchak said. “I thought he did things very decisively. When he started to go outside, he did hard and full speed on the edge. When he decided to go downhill, he decided to go downhill. I thought our backs ran well. Sometimes there were holes, sometimes there weren’t, but overall, I thought that part looked nice, and I thought some guys made some big-time catches.”
Tennessee’s offseason talk has been about an explosive offense. Whether it’s Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker at quarterback, he’ll be throwing to Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and, of course, Chris Johnson.
Johnson’s overall determination was in question last year, when he got a big contract extension prompted by a holdout, but then got suspect blocking and fell into bad habits. Eddie George recently said on Nashville radio that he saw Johnson stop moving his feet at initial contact and never really get back to it.
Though he did have a career-best 57 receptions, he said it wasn’t necessarily indicative of his role in the pass game.
“I think I was a little bit more involved in the pass offense with Dinger,” he said. “But with the situation that we’ve got here, since I got here we got a lot of playmakers on this offense. So it feels good to see a couple receivers out there putting up good numbers. I feel like it’s a different situation, if there’s a lot of us contributing, a lot of us making plays, I feel like it’s not a bad thing that I probably don’t get as many catches as I usually do.”
Johnson will still get catches, but owners should expect a drop off from his career high 57 last year. The hope would be that the Titans vertical passing threat will open more holes up for Johnson on the ground. We currently rank Johnson as our #5 RB. He's certainly safer than MJD and McFadden from a health and holdout perspective, but the fact that Johnson played all of last season at a sub-par level has us concerned in the first round.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 11:58am
He gained eight pounds of muscle to make him sturdier in the trenches, and he spent the offseason working with his coaches and teammates at Baptist Sports Park in the offseason program.
We have Johnson rated 6th among our RBs. It's natural to want to shy away from CJ2K after last season's frustrations, especially if you were an owner. But, with an ADP of the late first round (eighth pick in both standard and PPR), you almost have to be tempted to take a shot at that point in the draft. He seems to be dedicated to bouncing back this year, and with Tennessee's improved weapons in the passing attack, it should open some things up for him.
Last season, Tennessee Titans fans did not see the same running back in Chris Johnson they saw in seasons before. Now everyone seems to think his secret to success in 2012 will come from getting bigger.
However, perhaps it is not just Johnson's weight or even his spending more time with the team during offseason training activities and workouts that will ensure a return to form. Johnson's performance will likely benefit from the added gym time, but his mental preparation and readiness for the season will also factor into what he does on the field once the season begins.
"I was confident last year, it's just that it didn't work out right," Johnson recently told reporters. "I wasn't in shape, the blocking wasn't the same and it was just a lot of different things that factors into it or whatever. But this year I feel more confident physically and being able to work with my offensive line."
This is the concern when drafting players that are holding out and are missing training camp. They may be staying in good physical condition, but they aren't necessarily in "football shape." This is something to consider when drafting players like Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe.
Saturday, June 23, 2012, 1:01pm
Titans RB Chris Johnson compared himself to LeBron James: “I feel just like LeBron — a lot of people are going to be back on the bandwagon,” Johnson said. “He had a lot of haters out there, a lot of people saying he wasn’t good and things like that and just to see how he overcame that and came back this year and won the championship, it shows his hard work and dedication.”
Johnson just barely topped 1,000 yards last season, but this season he says he wants to top 2,000 yards, as he did in 2009.
“I feel like a lot of people have written me off,” Johnson said. “I still went over 1,000 yards but it wasn’t a CJ2K year. So a lot of people are going to write me off. . . . I want to be the first one to do it twice, that’s certainly a goal of mine to do. . . . I feel like I’m still the best back in the league. When I ran for 2,000 yards my goal was to be the best player in the league and I still want to be that. In order for my team to make it to the playoffs, make it to the Super Bowl, I’m going to have to be the best.”
Johnson finished the 2011 season as the #16 RB and he is currently sitting at #8 in our standard scoring rankings.
In Chris Johnson’s perfect world, the football finds its way into his hands 25 times a game — 20 carries and five pass receptions.
“To say you’re going to get a guy 25 touches a game is pushing it,” Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. “That’s 400 touches over the course of a season. He’s certainly capable of that, but what does it mean for the team? Does it help us win?”
Johnson remains a key element, but Palmer is more inclined to spread the field with receivers and throw the ball.
“We can’t allow people to come up and jam the box and make it difficult to run,” Palmer said. “In an ideal situation, you’d like to be 45 percent pass, 55 percent run. But depending on whom we’re playing, it may switch to 60 percent pass, 40 percent run. Or it can be a higher percentage of passing depending on the score.”
Better offensive balance should mean more room for Johnson to run. We're expecting a mild bounce-back season, but his performance in 2011 is still a big concern.
Sunday, June 10, 2012, 1:02pm
People who know Titans RB Chris Johnson are expecting him to have a big bounce-back season because he has rededicated himself. Johnson has worked out hard this offseason and spent a lot of time around the Titans facility. Last offseason, between his contract situation and the lockout, Johnson took it easy. He wasn’t in top shape when he reported, and it showed in how he played.
Thursday, June 7, 2012, 3:41pm
Chris Johnson is on a mission. The Tennessee running back insists he's still the best in the NFL, and he's working hard this offseason to make sure he bounces back after the worst season of his career.
Johnson has packed on 8 to 9 pounds of muscle as part of his strong commitment to the Titans' offseason program.
Coach Mike Munchak couldn't pinpoint Johnson's struggles when reviewing film at season's end. Johnson had trouble getting to the outside on stretch plays, his signature run through his first three seasons, and didn't locate the hole quickly enough on cut backs.
"Sometimes he cut back too soon, it was blocked well and then the next time he'd go well 'I'm going to stretch the darn thing' and all of a sudden he should have cut back," Munchak said.
Friday, May 25, 2012, 12:35pm
In previous years, Johnson worked out on his own with a personal trainer in Florida. Coming off the least productive season of his four-year career – and after a clause was added to his contract extension last summer that requires him to be in town for the majority of the workouts – Johnson’s opted to work with his teammates in town.
“C.J. has worked very hard,’’ Palmer said. “He is here, running hard and working hard. I’m very optimistic about how he’s going to perform this (fall).”
We’ve heard several times this offseason that Ravens running back Ray Rice wants to be paid like one of the NFL’s elite running backs, and that the player and the team are far apart in contract talks.
But Sal Paolantonio of ESPN might have had the report that put the distance between the Ravens and Rice into the starkest terms yet: Paolantonio said that when talking to a senior Ravens official about reports that Rice wants Adrian Peterson money or at least Chris Johnson money, that senior team official said, “That is simply not going to happen.”
Peterson signed a seven-year, $100 million deal with $36 million guaranteed, while Johnson signed a six-year, $56 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. Rice can’t expect to get that.
This sounds bad -- and it may very well be bad -- but Rice has to recognize that the Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson contracts have not worked out for the Vikings and Titans, respectively. Hopefully he will lower his asking price to a point that's palatable to the Ravens, and soon. A protracted, CJ1K-style hold out would make him a riskier pick on draft day. Johnson never looked like himself in 2011 and Rice would be running the same risk.
Going into the 2012 NFL Draft, Isaiah Pead was considered a late riser and hot sleeper among the running back prospects. Now that he has joined the St. Louis Rams as a second-round pick, No. 50 overall, Pead is being tabbed for a featured role in the near future.
The Rams are looking at Pead as more than just a complement to 6-2, 240-pound Steven Jackson, ESPN reports. Given Jackson turns 29 in July and carried a big load over his eight seasons and two-time All-Pro career, Rams officials were expected to bring fresh legs.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher has been versatile in his philosophy about what kind of back can thrive in getting 20-25 touches for his offense. With the Tennessee Titans, Fisher got to Super Bowl XXXIV against the Rams with 6-3, 240-pound Eddie George. Then Fisher got a 2,006-yard rushing season from 5-11, 191-pound speedster Chris Johnson in 2009.
This is certainly interesting from a dynasty standpoint, but it's too soon to write Jackson off. While he does have a lot of wear on his tires, his YPC in 2011 (4.4) was slightly above his career average and he certainly still looks the part of an every-down back. The team will likely work Pead into the mix, but Jackson is a decent bet to repeat the 302 touches he had last season, especially if the Rams' offense improves as expected.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 6:54pm
Chris Johnson’s annual absence from the Titans’ offseason program has been a storyline ever since he entered the league, but it won’t be an issue this year.
As part of the $53.5 million extension he signed last September, Johnson is required to participate in the majority of the team’s offseason workouts or he will be docked $250,000. The contract allows him six absences.
It wasn't quite as overwrought as LeBron James' decision on which team to abandon Cleveland for, but Jeff Fisher has finally chosen a coaching destination. He will take his talents to the St. Louis Rams.
Last week, Fisher interviewed with both the Rams and the Miami Dolphins, visiting both teams' facilities. Rumors of where he would land started to leak on Monday, but there was no definitive news until ESPN reported today that he is headed to St. Louis.
Friday, January 13, 2012, 12:36pm
If he’s on the team’s roster on the fifth day of the league year, Johnson gets his base salary of $8 million. If the Titans cut ties with him, Bud Adams doesn’t have to write that check.
Coach Mike Munchak is on record as saying he expects Johnson to be on the roster, although he acknowledges the final personnel call lies with GM Mike Reinfeldt and, ultimately, the owner.
“I would assume that he is going to be on our roster, yes,” Munchak said.
And in a moment of candor that is rare for those in his chosen profession, Munchak verbalized what most of us have been saying for the last several months: Johnson is no longer the 4.24-second blur he was at the ’08 combine.
“Is he a step slower? Yeah, I’m sure he is,” Munchak said when asked if Joshson had lost some of his speed. “I don’t know how you would measure that exactly, but I’m sure he has.”
Is Johnson running on empty? I honestly don’t think so. While he has lost a touch of speed, his failure to break long runs appeared to be rooted in a lack of confidence.
In the past, Johnson would find an opening and accelerate through traffic. This season, he seemed unsure that he could get to and through the hole. And let’s not pretend that the blocking was there. Pass protection was excellent. Run blocking? Not so good.
Friday, December 30, 2011, 8:09pm