Chris Johnson has been a non factor this season when it comes to the Tennessee Titans running game, so far producing only 45 yards on 33 carries, scoring no touchdowns. Worst in the NFL? Not far from it, as he has the lowest yards per carry in the NFL for anyone with at least 12 rushing attempts this season.
The Titans, for the first time this season, managed to pull through without Johnson’s diminishing talent and production, backed by Jake Locker showing up with the biggest game of his career, throwing for 378 yards and two touchdown passes while running for 35 more yards on four attempts. Johnson? He ran for 24 yards on 14 carries. Sure, teams do focus on the Titans’ running back, who has four consecutive 1000 yard seasons, but this is getting a bit pathetic.
You can’t always throw it all on the running back, which is dependent on the offensive line to create holes for him. Johnson’s ability to hit that extra gear and break through just isn’t there so far this season. The Titans didn’t allow a single sack, so it’s hard to say it was protection problem.
After Johnson ran for 2006 yards, came a season with 1364 yards, a second consecutive year with over 300 rushing attempts, as his yards per carry dropped to 4.3 per game from a whopping 5.6 per game. In 2011? Missing training camp for contract reasons didn’t help his start, dropping to 1047 yards on 262 carries, dropping to 4.0. This season? 1.4 per carry so far.
The sadder thing about this are the names above him on the rushing list. Quarterback names, and not just Cam Newton and Michael Vick. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (who is a great rusher); Jake Locker, his quarterback; Andrew Luck of the Colts; Robert Griffin III, obviously; Travis Benjamin, the Browns’ wide receiver; Matt Cassel, one of the worst performing quarterbacks this season; Matt Ryan, the most efficient quarterback early this season; and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills.
The season when it’s suddenly all over? Nothing new for running backs, but for Johnson to suddenly become such a non-factor in the Titans offense is certainly unexpected, although something that does happen in the reality of running backs in the NFL. Despite that, this seems to be something a bit different, and things should look better, at least slightly, as the season continues, unless they stop using him.