Tennessee Titans enthusiasts have a love-hate relationship with Chris Johnson. An example of that came when the Titans hosted the New York Jets on Dec. 17, 2012. Johnson had 21 carries for 122 yards. Fans loved Johnson on his 94-yard touchdown scamper. They weren’t excited about his other 20 carries: 28 yards.
That inconsistency drives fans insane. Some fans prefer a more-complete running back who relies on more than big plays. They want someone who can grind out the tough yards. If this were compared to baseball, these fans would prefer the five-tool outfielder who doesn’t dominate any statistical category over the player who offers nothing more than 40 homers.
The running back pool is fairly shallow. Pro Football Focus has compiled a list of the top free-agent running backs of 2013. Danny Woodhead (10.4) and Steven Jackson (9.3) have the highest ratings. Javon Ringer (-1.7) and Darius Reynaud (-1.1) are toward the bottom of that list.
Fans tend to focus on big-name free agents. However, it’s important to have quality role players who come cheap. The Titans don’t have the luxury of using a high draft pick on a running back. They have too many other weaknesses that they must address.
There’s a good chance that the Green Bay Packers won’t re-sign Cedric Benson. DuJuan Harris gave them a much-needed spark in the second half of the season. The Packers still have high expectations for Alex Green. Brandon Saine will return from an injury that cost him the entire season.
At age 30, Benson is basically playing for one-year contracts. He’ll sign for around the veteran’s minimum. That’s a low-risk deal for a player who has plenty to offer the Tennessee Titans:
- Short-yardage and goal-line situations
- Picking up blitzes
- Milking clock during the fourth quarter
- Veteran presence
- Former Texas Longhorn (Bud Adams might like that!)
Benson’s violent running style allows him to have more success when his offensive line doesn’t perform well. He’s a good fallback option during those games when Johnson gets off to a rough start. You know, “10 carries for 13 yards.”
If Benson is available, then at the very least, management should bring him in for training camp. See how well he has recovered from his Lisfranc injury. No doubt that a backfield with Johnson, Benson and a late-round draft pick is an improvement. Maybe Jamie Harper could learn something from Benson. Benson seemed to have a positive impact on the other running backs in Green Bay.
Regardless, adding depth behind Johnson is a must.