Sep 22, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) rushes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Johnson's Slow Start A Cause For Concern?

It is no secret that Chris Johnson is not playing very well so far this year. The former Pro Bowler still does not have a rushing touchdown through the Tennessee Titans’ first five contests and he is only averaging 59 yards per game. Last week’s 49-yard catch and run is one of the few highlights from the sixth-year running back’s season so far, as his longest carry of the year is only 23 yards. To put his diminished production into context, both the Philadelphia Eagles (LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick) and the Buffalo Bills (Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller) have two players on their rosters who have more rushing yards than Johnson.

But just how bad Johnson’s start in the context of the rest of his career? As it turns out, not that bad. The chart below details the numbers.

Chris Johnson’s stats through five games by year

Carries Yards Yards/Carry Rushing TDs
2013  94  294  3.1  0
2012  73  210  2.9  0
2011  83  250  3.0  0
2010  113  485  4.3  4
2009  78  468  6.3  2
2008  85  381  5.0  2

Despite Johnson’s underwhelming start, he is still doing better through five games than he did last year and the previous year. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to say he is playing well, but it is important to remember that things could be worse.

Also, despite having the worst opening five games of his career in 2012, Johnson still finished the year with 1,243 yards. Conversely, in 2010, Johnson had more yards through five games than ever before or since, but he finished with only 1,364. In short, there is still a lot of time left for the running back formerly known as CJ2K to turn his season around.

Chris Johnson’s final stats by year

Carries Yards Yards/Carry Rushing TDs
2013  ?  ?  ?  ?
2012  276  1,243  4.5  6
2011  262  1,047  4.0  4
2010  316  1,364  4.3  11
2009  358  2,006  5.6  14
2008  251  1,228  4.9  9

It is also worth mentioning that, through the first three games this year, Johnson racked up 256 yards on 3.7 yards per carry. It is only in the last two weeks that his performance saw a sharp downturn. Also, the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars are ranked 31 and 32 in run defense, respectively, and the Houston Texans are in a three-way tie for 30th place. Five of the Titans’ 11 remaining games are against those terrible rush defenses, so expect Johnson to have a much stronger second half of the season.

Are you concerned about Chris Johnson's start to the 2013 season?

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Tags: Chris Johnson NFL Tennessee Titans

  • P. Loew

    I’m very concerned about the running game primarily because our identity is ground and pound and play ferocious D. That’s the way this team has been built, that’s the mentality of the head coach and coaching scheme. I think Titans must tweak the offense; be more creative with the run game and, yes, run some more finesse/trickery plays. I don’t want to change the identity of the team, that would be disastrous at this junction; but I do think we have to quit telegraphing/broadcasting our offensive plays to the opposing defense. I know Munchak gets a lot of satisfaction out of ‘they know what we’re gonna do, but they can’t stop us.’ There’s just one problem with that: THEY ARE STOPPING US. Sorry Munch, our O-Line is just not good enough to play that way. Now do something before our season gets away from us and you loose your job.

    • Ben Greene

      Yeah I’d say we run too many straight off-guard or off-tackle plays. Instead, we should get CJ the ball in space on pitches and stretch plays and allow him to run counters, cut backs, and misdirections far more.

      I remember we used to run a play in the Vince Young days when CJ would take one or two steps in one direction and catch a pitch, then immediately cut back in the other direction. The defense would automatically flow to one side when they saw the ball in the air on the pitch, but the play would end up going the other way. It was golden.

      • Ben Greene

        Also, if we’re going to run draws, we should do it out of the shotgun, so the defense is more spread out and less likely to expect it. That is the point of a draw play, after all.

        • P. Loew

          Yep. I like to see more of that. I like to see the TE’s more involved, splits and sweeps and little dump offs that move the chains like Frank Wycheck used to do. I mean that stuffs not complicated and it takes the pressure off CJ and just that would give him more space to operate. I do think defenses are more hip to CJ’s change of direction stuff he likes to run but, yeah, the O-Line isn’t pulling and plays are not being designed for misdirection like they should be. I don’t get it.

          • Ben Greene

            Yeah I never have been a fan of the whole “reversing the field” thing CJ (and really every other running back) tries to do sometimes. It is really risky and has feast or famine results. But I love the designed cutbacks with guards pulling to make a trap block or tight ends and fullbacks inserting to get to the second level.

  • Berdj Rassam

    Chris Johnson has become an average RB – and at 3.1 yards a rush, “average” may be a generous rating.