The Tennessee Titans have notoriously been a run first offense for most of the franchise’s existence. That didn’t change in 2011, but the success certainly wasn’t what we were all expecting. Chris Johnson was obviously affected by his hold out in a negative way. The lockout, holdout and Chris Palmer’s new schemes combined with Chris Johnson’s new cash flow may have been more than enough to dissipate the strong running seasons of years passed. A quick glance at CJ’s numbers, 262 carries for 1,047 yards, may not seem too terrible, but he only had four rushing touchdowns. That is extremely disappointing from the former rushing title holder.
We all know Chris Johnson isn’t going anywhere. He is cemented in as our starting running back; with all due respect, CJ needs to run like he wants to get yards, not like he wants to get back in the locker room un-injured. I am all for dodging hits for health reasons, but we all know he was a scared dude the first half of the season. I have never been so mad at a Titans player in my life. With all that said, he did have some incredible games. The Carolina, Tampa Bay and Buffalo games were reminiscent of years past. Let’s be honest though, those three defenses didn’t scare anybody.
There is no way I could write this article without placing some blame on the worst interior o-line in the organization’s history. Center Eugene Amano might have been our worst player. He was beat off the ball and thrown into Johnson’s lap repeatedly throughout the season. Some tweaks and insertion of new talent to this interior line should go a long way for Chris Johnson in 2012. He may have lost a half a step, but he still has incredible vision that will only get better with a full off season at Baptist Sports Park.
The other two running backs are Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper. Ringer isn’t great at any one particular thing, but he is a good teammate that fights for yards when they aren’t necessarily there. He didn’t have a great season as a backup, 59 attempts for 185 yards, but he did convert a huge 4th down run against Baltimore. That play tricked their whole defense, as well as myself. He will be the backup runner again this season, but look for him to split a little more time with the bigger and younger, Jamie Harper.
Harper is the same height as Ahmard Hall and only eight pounds lighter. He spent a couple games listed as full back when Hall was injured late in the season. I don’t expect this to be a full time thing, as Quinn Johnson is likely to get this job back. I think Harper was drafted to be a bruiser, but he seems to want to out juke people when he should be putting his pads down and hitting them in the mouth. I think the staff will show him a lot of film and tweak his style to more of a traditional short yardage pounder, rather than a wannabe scat-back.
I don’t expect the Titans to spend any draft picks on this position in the 2012 NFL Draft. I also don’t think they will bring in any free agents, as there are plenty of holes elsewhere. With Chris Palmer calling the plays this team is slowly turning into a more pass-friendly offense. This is great to see because of the way the league is transcending across the board. The deep-threat of a healthy Kenny Britt will certainly go a long way to help our backfield get more space to work with.
I am looking forward to the 2012 Chris Johnson and I fully expect him to be in better shape than the guy that showed up just before the 2011 season started.