Entering his sixth NFL season, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is coming off the best preseason campaign of his career.
In the three exhibition games Jonson played in, he amassed 155 yards and one touchdown on only 20 carries (7.75 yards per carry). Interestingly, those numbers look eerily similar to one of the many impressive stat lines from Johnson’s 2,000-yard season. Titans fans hope to see numbers like this week in and week out from the highest paid player on the team’s roster again in 2013.
However, don’t expect Johnson to see more than 22 carries per game, like he did in that magical 2009 season. In the last two years, Johnson has only carried the ball 16.81 times per game, and with the addition of Shonn Greene to the rotation, that number could easily dip to 15 this year.
Nevertheless, Johnson has showed during this preseason that he does not need many touches to break a long run. On only his second carry of the opener, Johnson cut back at the line of scrimmage, eluded Redskins’ linebacker Brian Orakpo and embarrassed rookie safety Bacarri Rambo in the open field on his way to a 58-yard touchdown.
Though Johnson’s 2013 exhibition performance has been encouraging, he needs to make sure his success translates to the regular season. In 2008, Johnson did just that. As a rookie, he carried the ball 33 times for 182 yards (5.52 yards per carry) and two touchdowns – including one 66-yard touchdown – in four preseason games. Johnson parlayed that strong preseason into a 1,228-yard regular season in which he scored nine touchdowns, averaged 4.89 yards per carry and helped his team to a league-best 13-3 record.
However, Johnson has also showed that his preseason output does not always match up with his regular season production. For instance, before Johnson’s 2,000 yard season, he played in five preseason games, including the Hall of Fame game, and had 25 carries for only 77 yards (3.08 yards per carry) and no touchdowns.
I am inclined to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt on this one and say his dominant preseason performance will carry over into the regular season. I’m not guaranteeing a 2,000-yard season – or even a rushing title – but I do not think 1,500 yards is out of the question if he can get touches early and often.
But a repeat of that 2,000-yard season would be nice, too.