The Guest Spot: What’s In Store For Chris Johnson in 2012?

Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

This edition of The Guest Spot comes courtesy of Patrick Ward. You can catch him on Twitter @JPatrickWard

What’s In Store For Chris Johnson In 2012?

One of the biggest question marks for the Tennessee Titans in 2012 has to be Chris Johnson. Can CJ2K find his step again and get back to being the game changer that he was just a couple of seasons ago? I believe many fans and the media have written Johnson off. This is a “what have you done for me lately” league and honestly, Johnson hasn’t done much for the Titans or anyone else lately. After an extended hold out, the Titans finally gave Johnson the superstar money ($53.5 million) he felt that he deserved after being only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. There were many who criticized the Titans for giving that kind of money to a running back in an era where the position’s value is declining rapidly. His performance in 2011 did nothing to help his case. It is hard to defend a player who rolled up less than 25 yards in five games. There are running backs sitting on practice squads that could do better than that with half the snaps. Johnson has given the media and fans more than enough ammunition over the past year, and the ball is in his court to prove the critics wrong.

Those who believe Johnson is just an average running back that had one special season only need to look at the company Johnson has on the list of rushers who have cracked 2,000 yards. It is unknown at this point if Johnson deserves to be mentioned in the same conversation as O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders, but it takes a special player to do what he did. This is a make or break season for Johnson. In 2012, either Johnson will solidify his position as a one year wonder that the Titans overpaid for, or he will elevate himself back to being the game changing superstar he seems to think that he is. I believe 2012 will be the year Johnson shuts the critics up. The 2012 version of Chris Johnson is going to make believers out of all of us and here is why.

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

Chris Johnson has finally decided to be a team player. For the first time since becoming a Titan, Johnson is in Nashville working out with his teammates. He decided that in a team sport like football, it might be helpful to actually be around your team. Crazy huh? His music career never really took off, and it is a tragedy that future generations will never get to hear his groundbreaking single “Act on Deck” playing at LP every Sunday. [Editor's note: you, however, can peep it here] The failed rapper has decided that perhaps his feet are faster than his flow, so it is back to football for CJ. Chris Johnson seems focused on getting back to where he wants to be as an athlete. He had a lengthy hold out last season that I know contributed to his decline. The Titans had a new coaching staff for the first time since arriving in Tennessee, and our star running back was nowhere to be found. A hold out, plus a nearly entire new coaching staff is tough to get comfortable with in just a couple of weeks. One positive from last year is how Chris Johnson’s numbers steadily improved throughout the season as he became more comfortable in the system and on the field. With an entire season in Munchak’s system and participation in the off season workouts, I am optimistic that Johnson will improve significantly this season.

Another reason I believe Johnson will be outstanding in 2012 is the supposed quarterback competition the Titans will be having in training camp this year. I say “supposed” because I truly believe Jake Locker will be our starting quarterback come week one no matter what the coaching staff says. For the sake of my argument right now, we will just assume Locker is the guy. Locker is a highly mobile quarterback that will rely on his legs this year more often than he should. Some of Johnson’s best runs came when defenses faced the threat of Vince Young rolling out on play action and bootlegs. Johnson could find himself in a similar situation this season with Jake Locker under center. Defenses will be forced to respect Locker’s scrambling ability, forcing defensive players to stay at home. This should take some of the pressure of Johnson. Fewer players pursing Johnson is a good thing for everyone, considering he is often one missed tackle or block away from taking it to the house. In 2012, the combination of Chris Johnson & Jake Locker could mean a return to form for CJ2K. We could pile on Vince Young and his inability to read a grade school defense, and go on about how Locker is already the superior quarterback compared to Young, but why state the obvious. Locker will be the threat on the ground and in the air that gives CJ the room he needs to find the open field.

The Titans surprised people in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Coming off a season where our pass rush was so poor even I would have felt fearless standing in the pocket for the opposing team, many had Tennessee going after a defensive end in round one. Instead the Titans pulled the trigger on the play making receiver Kendall Wright from Baylor. After my initial confusion wore off, I came to like the pick because it became clear that the coaching staff and front office were shifting the focus to the offensive side of the ball. This is an offensive league and the Titans seem to finally be understanding that. The days of “Fisher ball” are far behind us. We have a young quarterback in Locker that is being surrounded by weapons to help him succeed. These weapons will have the same effect on the production of Chris Johnson. Teams will find it tough to load up the box with Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Jared Cook on the field. With Locker under center and our skill positions finally being a legitimate threat, Johnson should have even more chances to make big plays in 2012.

Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Now for my own personal 2012 Chris Johnson prediction: I’m going to go ahead and say that CJ tops 1,500 yards this year on the ground. If he could also roll up around 500 yards receiving, it would be an extremely productive season. 1,500 is not a crazy high number, and it might not even be enough to lead the league in rushing, but it will be a huge improvement. It would be his highest rushing total since going for 2,006 in 09. I expect Cj to wow us with a few 50+ yard sprints to the end zone this year, and the haters will start to die down. I for one am a CJ2K supporter. He has been a pleasure to watch and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by him ever since he took the field. There are few players in the league that take your breath away nearly every time they touch the ball. As Titans fans, we came to realize that CJ was usually one missed tackle away from scoring six. My CJ fan hood has come a long way since I hurled a half empty can of PBR at my flat screen in anger when the Titans took an average running back from East Carolina in the first round of the draft. He made me eat my words once before, and I have a feeling he is about to do the same to everyone else in 2012.

And if he doesn’t… well we can just all blame Eugene Amano.

Patrick Ward

If you are interested in seeing your work published on The Guest Spot, please submit articles to [email protected] Contact me on Twitter @TitanSizedJason

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Topics: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, The Guest Spot, Titans

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  • JasonPeters

    I like your point about Jake Locker’s mobility being a large reason for success for CJ. I never really thought about the fact that Vince Young’s mobility had an effect on the way teams prepared for CJ, and thus on his success. If we assume for a moment that Hass wins the competition over Locker, do you think CJ can still put up the same amount of yards?

  • Alliegr5rmdy7xt

    @JPatrickWard http://t.co/O1146SzR

  • http://www.justinlstewart.com/ jstitansized

     @JasonPeters Exactly. The dual threat is always a difference maker. Defenses are going to be super confused trying to figure out how to cover a mobile QB, a pro bowl RB, and a scary mother flipping receiving corps.

  • JPatrickWard

    @JasonPeters if Hass takes it I think his numbers will drop to 2010 levels. Not awful. Hass just doesn’t have anything to really frighten defenses. Hass can still stretch the field but defenses know what they have when he is on the field. Locker is a wild card.

  • mati15

     @JasonPeters No chance if Hass starts. Not only because of the threat to run as a QB, but he’s just more explosive as a passer. He stretches the field through the air and widens it as a dual threat QB. If we really want to be an explosive offense Locker has to start.

  • mati15

    Very good article and even better finish on the Amano line haha. He’s awful and I hope we don’t have to see him on the ground very often this year.

  • http://www.justinlstewart.com/ jstitansized

     @JPatrickWard  @JasonPeters I think you mean 2011 levels, ha ha ha. Either way, this offense is the most stacked it has ever been. Ever. This team has unbelievable potential. Hope they can meet it.

  • dragak1981

     @mati15 I agree 110%.  Locker is a downfield passer and Hasselback is not.  His game is the short to intermediate pass.  You want to keep safeties out of the box,  you have to stretch the field…aka take the top off the defense.

  • dragak1981

    Great post man.  I am a big Cj fan too…I think this year he is super motivated.  If the O-line can just be decent run blocking (they were horrible last year) and Palmer can come up with a little more imagination in the run game than he did last year, CJ should be fine.  He does have to get his shiftiness back.  Last year he rarely made guys miss like he used to and a lot of times just went down on first contact with no fight

  • seagle1

    I have to disagree about CJ just now deciding to be a team player. So he was less of a team player in years past because he worked out on his own in Orlando?
    I also don’t understand why everyone has bagged on Hasselbeck since we signed him, he had one of his best years ever and played the entire season without his #1 WR, CJ playing sub par and we still finished one game out of the playoffs. He had to learn a new offense with zero prep time as well.
    I like Locker as well, I really do but who cares if he can run, hes a QB…..he better be able to pass…which he showed he can.
    I just think popping Locker in as the starter when he’s not ready could set him back years. What does Hasselbeck give us….well, if his receivers ate healthy, he gives us a guy that can make every throw on the field and do it consistently, he brings the veteran leadership of someone who has taken his team to the super bowl, hes a steadying force. If Locker starts this year….he’ll look great…..at times….Hasselbeck with all his weapons will give you 200-250 yards and a TD every game.
    I will say though…..I’m with ya, I think CJ bounces back in a big way this year. I can easily see 1400-1500 yards in the first year of Chris Palmers offense….yea, this will
    Be the first year in Chris palmers offense, they didn’t have time to install it last year.

    Good article man

  • seagle1

    @jstitansized @JasonPeters
    The dual threat is only a difference maker if he can pass the ball…..I liked the way he looked last year but I worry about what happens once teams get 2-3 games
    Worth of game tape on him. Still surprises me
    How little respect Hasselbeck gets….he played great last year….definitely soft, but he makes all the throws.

  • seagle1

    @mati15 @JasonPeters
    How many QBs on the league have no chance because they can only pass? How many QBs in the league truly change game plans because of their ability to run? Two! Vick and Cam….so 29 teams have it wrong? What if
    Locker can run but can only complete 47% of his passes, what if Hasselbeck can complete 61% of his passes but cant run? Give me Hasselbeck…..we have a RB

  • dragak1981

     @seagle1  @mati15  @JasonPeters Agreed….teh QB’s job most of all is to pass the ball….being able to run is icing on the cake…If Locker is not ready and has not solved the problems with his mechanics than the best option is certainly Hasselback.  Surprisingly, I have not read anything really about his progress on his footwork or how he is doing in OTAs….has anyone else….this gives me cause for concern because if he was improving they would possibly be talking him up. 

  • seagle1

    @jstitansized @JPatrickWard @JasonPeters
    Wild cards that can’t pass the ball consistently in the nfl mean zero to an offense once a decent defense gets about 3 games of type on that player.

  • http://www.justinlstewart.com/ jstitansized

     @seagle1  @jstitansized  @JPatrickWard  @JasonPeters  So basically you just said we have Tim Tebow.

  • seagle1

    @jstitansized @JPatrickWard @JasonPeters
    No, no, no, not at all….but in reality, we have a 2nd year QB who is in his first year of learning our offense due to the lockout, an offense that will be predicated on reading the defense and making adjustments on the fly(hoping your receivers make those same adjustments as well)……I think Locker is a great talent and will be our franchise QB but him working on the sideline and talking with Hasselbeck(who is willing to mentor) can only help. Like I’ve said before….why do people not want Hasselbeck as the QB? Teams have hundreds of games
    Of tape on him and he’s still successful! Why? Because he’s a heady vet who controls the offense, can make all the throws, and is a very good QB! He finished what…15 amongst QBs last year without his top WR and a lethargic running game. I just believe, locker needs to play when ready….didn’t hurt McNair or
    Many other QBs.

  • http://www.justinlstewart.com/ jstitansized

     @seagle1  @jstitansized  @JPatrickWard  @JasonPeters Ha ha ha. And I expect Hasselbeck to start the season off for the Titans. I do think Locker could be capable this year. Last year his growth was stunted by the lockout but he still had an entire season of learning things, mainly from the sideline. And to say it’s his first year of learning our offense is a stretch. Yes the offense will have a LOT more this year, but last year it was given its’ foundation, which means he should be familiar with the base of most of the things the Titans will be running this year.

  • seagle1

    @jstitansized @JPatrickWard @JasonPeters

    Yeah, tou’re correct, it won’t all be foreign, he knows the players involved and now has the terminology so he definitely has a leg up and some experience going for him, but putting a QB in before he’s ready I’d a recipe for disaster…..the league is littered with the skeletons of could have been great QBs. Akiki smith, Tim couch, Vince young, Joey Harrington, etc etc. I think Locker had a ton of talent but do you really want to risk his development into a franchise QB just so you can see him play and talk about how much he’ll develop next year????? Seems like that’s exactly what we said about Vince Young doesn’t it???? Hasselbeck is alot better than Kerry also!!

  • http://www.justinlstewart.com/ jstitansized

     @seagle1  @jstitansized  @JPatrickWard  @JasonPeters Hasselbeck is better than Kerry. That’s a given. If Locker gets the start, the coaching staff believes he’s ready. Fact.

  • seagle1

    @jstitansized @JPatrickWard @JasonPeters
    Agreed

  • cjg6710

     @seagle1 unfortunately a TD a game is pathetic, thats 16 on a year, which is basically what he did last year. Hasselbeck is old and extremely limited, i think he would be unable to take advantage of all the weapons and best serves the team on the bench

  • JasonPeters

     @cjg6710  @seagle1 I agree. I’m starting to believe more and more that with our troubles getting in the end zone with Matt and CJ, Locker could be our best bet.

  • seagle1

    @cjg6710 No, throwing a TD pass a game is not pathetic at all and of course there will be games he throws multiple TDs. So due tell me….extremely limited in what way? Running the ball? I’ll give you that. Sure he’s
    Old and brittle and those are definitely causes for concern. Totally agree there. Let’s throw a couple hypotheticals out there, if Kenny Britt would have stayed healthy all year, and if CJ would have been a consistent threat running the ball, Hasselbeck finishes as a top 10 QB, do you agree? If he did finish a top 10 QB do you think everyone would still want to see Locker so soon? Hasselbeck completes 60% of his passes on his career, if anyone would be able to take advantage of our offensive weapons it’s Hasselbeck.

  • cjg6710

    @seagle1 It is pathetic, a top 10 QB is throwing 30 td a season easy. Hasselbeck may have been over 60% but he is limited in the fact that he can’t stretch the field as deep as locker can. Making a defense respect the deep ball will spread the defense out and open up running lanes. Hass is just not capable of using all the weapons to the best of their ability. Britt would have helped hass but he wouldn’t have turned his stats into Aaron rodgers and I doubt he would have had over 25 passing td. Even sanchez did that…..

  • seagle1

     @cjg6710  @seagle1 Oh I gotcha, so a QB must have a “big” arm to complete down field passes? Britt had 289 yards and 3 TDs in two games last year. I guarantee if Britt had stayed healthy Hasselbeck would have easily had 25+ TDs. That’s a given. He finished the season with 18….Britt alone would have been good for another 7. I’m sorry but in the NFL, its about throwing to spots, not who has a laser, rocket arm. The streets are littered with guys that could throw 75 yards. Hasselbeck is what he is, a very good distributor of the football, a good game manager, and a solid QB. Trust me, I don’t think he’ll light the NFL on fire if he starts this year(which many respected writers and NFL people) think that he will. I’m just trying to look at the big picture and to me, rushing Locker into the starting QB position just isn’t that wise when he can sit and learn from a good QB. I don’t hate Locker at all, I actually really like him and what he may turn out to be, I just don’t want to rush him into action just because.

  • JPatrickWard

    @JasonPeters @cjg6710 @seagle1 I agree. Despite Hass playing well last year, I think Locker Lockers better for CJ. Hass isn’t saying anyone. Locker is a wildcard.

  • JPatrickWard

    @dragak1981 @seagle1 @mati15 @JasonPeters I think I read from Climer that the QB competition is a facade. Hass is the guy… that is unfortunate imo. Locker adds the threat of getting outside of the pocket and breathing people with his legs. Locker`s athletic ability is severely underrated. It is a huge weapon. Plus he has the arm to take the top off of a defense.

  • JPatrickWard

    @dragak1981 @seagle1 @mati15 @JasonPeters I think I read from Climer that the QB competition is a facade. Hass is the guy… that is unfortunate imo. Locker adds the threat of getting outside of the pocket and beating people with his legs. Locker`s athletic ability is severely underrated. It is a huge weapon. Plus he has the arm to take the top off of a defense.

  • cjg6710

    @seagle1 There was a noticeable difference in the offense every time jake took the field last year. Against the saints, falcons and colts he was able to put some life into a dull offense, his footwork is raw but the kid made plays when the veteran failed. If hass starts the first 4 games the titans have conceded the season. He is not capable of making big plays to match the scoring of the other teams offenses. There’s a reason why Seattle let him go, he’s been average at best his whole caterer and isn’t going to improve with age. You can knock lockers 50% completion rating, but it is telling that he threw for over 500 yards and didn’t throw a single INT. clearly he was doing something right. Hass served his purpose and let jake sit during the season with no offseason, now that jakes in there it’s time to let him take over.

  • seagle1

     @cjg6710  @seagle1 There was a difference when Locker played last year and that’s good. I’m glad that he had a positive impact on the offense but it is a very small sample that you’re taking. There were probably a few reasons why Seattle let Hasselbeck walk, one of them might be money.
    Hahahahaha…..average at best his whole career. That’s wrong, totally wrong, he is a 2 time pro bowler, 1 time all pro, led the NFC in QB rating in 2005 and also led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl but I’m sure you’ll over look all that as well.
    So if Hass starts the first 4 games of the season….they have conceded the season? Really? Really? So after a quarter of the season if Hass starts, Munchak, and Palmer are going to throw their hands up in the air and quit.
     
    Just because you want Locker to start soooo bad doesn’t mean that its his time. If Munchak and Palmer choose to start Hass for the season opener then obviously the guys that have been practicing with him, watching him on film, watching him work in the offense might know just a tad bit more than you.
     
    I think I’ll let it ride and trust that the coaches will put the best players out on the field.

  • JasonPeters

    I just wanna say how awesome it is to see everyone discussing this so in depth. This is exactly the type of discussion we were hoping this forum would stimulate. You really get a lot of perspective.

  • cjg6710

    @seagle1 Pro bowls aren’t the best metric to judge a QB, Vince young had 2 I believe and Philip Rivers was terrible last year and still made it. Secondly, yes he made it to the super bowl and one could argue the refs robbed them that game, but I’m sorry to say he had the best rating in the NFC is comical, brees Rodgers and the other great qbs weren’t playing yet, and Eli and the younger qbs were new. I’ll agree with the coaches decision as well but I don’t want them to be overly conservative, if they are even in camp I want them to go w jake because of his upside.

  • seagle1

    @cjg6710 Oh my lord….I’ll give it to you, you are fighting tooth and nail on this one, I like it. Ok, I’m sorry but I have to disagree….pro bowls are mos def a pretty good measuring stick of a QBs value…yes there are exceptions, but as a whole, it’s a pretty good measuring stick.
    Really, his great season didn’t mean anything because he was nt compared to Bree’s, Rodgers or Eli? Ok, well lets check it then, in 2005 he was playing in the league with Peyton, Carson Palmer, Big Ben, Marc Bulger, Tom Brady…and yes Drew Brees…..he finished that year as the 4th rated passer in the league, just look at his career stats, he has been a very good QB who played most of his career with sub par talent at the receiver position. Sorry man but having the best QB rating in any conference is not comical at all, it just isn’t.
    Another thing, you’ve been talking about how can’t stretch the field and make the defense pay….why not, last year he had 43 completions of 20+ yards and 10 completions of 40+ yards….with Kenny Britt only playing 2 games and in an offense he was learning on the fly….can you imagine what he’ll do with a healthy Kenny Britt, CJ playing well, Cookie coming into his own, and the addition of Kendall Wright to the offense, plus a full off season to work with everyone.

    He’s a player….he’s definitely not my fav player by far but I am more than comfortable with him under center and I just don’t get why everyone wants to throw Locker in there just because he can run a sprint out bootleg and escape the pocket. Who the hell cares….you don’t make a living in the NFL running as a QB. What if your offense doesn’t run any bootlegs for the QB?
    Guy is a player!

  • seagle1

    @JasonPeters Meeeee toooo….it would be great if all threads had this much talk!!! Good stuff!!!

  • cjg6710

    @seagle1 Hass may be a player, but only an average one. He has never thrown for 30td and has never eclipsed 4000 yards both of those are benchmarks of a quality quarterback, he is AVERAGE and has always been. Him having one good stat in one good season hardly makes him a top 10 QB, before VY got injured he was ranked 4th in the NFL in QB rating in his last Titan season. Jake will learn more from playing in games then he will on the bench. He sat and watched last year now it’s time to let him loose! Hass isn’t gonna carry this team to the Super Bowl so they might as well let jake try

  • seagle1

    @cjg6710 so by our criteria then I guess Steve McNair wasn’t that good of a player either? He never threw for 4,000 yards and 25 TDs. Hmmm…ok.
    Actually Hasselbecks career QB rating of 82.2 ranks well ahead of the average QB rating so he is indeed….BETTER THAN AVERAGE….he is, those are the facts.
    No, him ranking #4 amongst QBs in 2005 made him a top 10 QB, that’s just how it is, he was indeed a top 10 QB that year….check all of his stats from 2005, he was the 4th best QB. Now, of course he’s not a top 10 QB now. Jake may learn more playing or he may not, there are different learning styles….I don’t know what suits him best…..maybe he’s an auditory/visual learner and watching the game from the sideline suits him best, maybe he’s a kinesthetic learner and playing suits him best…I don’t know.
    Well seeing how we’ve only been to one Super Bowl….jake might not get us there either.
    All I know is that I’m all for Jake Locker playing when he’s ready, if that’s this year, awesome, if not then so be it.
    I trust the coaches know what their doing…I mean they get paid to coach and they have many years of experience so if they say Hasselbeck, who is BETTER THAN AVERAGE is the starter well then it goes back to how sports work, the best player will play.

  • http://www.justinlstewart.com/ jstitansized

     @seagle1  @cjg6710 Now we’re getting ridiculous. You can’t compare McNair and Hasselbeck due to their different styles. McNair rushed for 37 touchdowns in his career.Also, QB rating is a horrible system. If 82.2 is better than average then we can basically lump Mark Sanchez in that group with his 78.2 rating.Hasselbeck is a more than serviceable player when healthy.

  • seagle1

    @jstitansized @cjg6710 Oh I wheheartedly agree that you can’t compare McNair to Hasselbeck, but I also believe the bench mark for a good QB is not 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. Although I do feel there are flaws with the QB rating used its a decent measuring stick to gauge a QBs performance.

    I also believe that Hass is more than serviceable….when healthy.
    I kind of look at our QB situation the way it was when McNair was drafted….I was very anxious to see him play, but I was happy we had Chris Chandler there as well.