Around the SPOT: PFS Panel on Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson is one of the NFL’s most exciting running backs. In 2009, Johnson had 2,509 total yards from scrimmage. He broke the all-time single-season record that Marshall Faulk had previously held. Johnson’s 2,006 rushing yards make him one of seven players who have rushed for 2,000-plus yards in one season. This makes him part of an elusive club that includes Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and O.J. Simpson.
Johnson hasn’t enjoyed the type of success that he had during his outstanding sophomore season. He’s still a dynamic back. He owns the NFL record for most career runs of 80-plus yards. At age 27, Johnson has several years to add to his totals.
Let’s take a journey Around the Spot to get a perspective of Chris Johnson from many NFL fans, ones who love him and others—not so much.
Pro Football Spot's Commander-In-Chief, jhutch covers the Titans on a regular basis. Today, we kickoff the panel with his analysis of Tennessee's elite back.
There's a lot to be said about Titans RB Chris Johnson. Plenty of reasons to love him and plenty of reasons not to. On one hand, he can take it to the house on any given play. On the other hand, he can put forth little effort when things don't go his way. That's what I've observed.
When the Titans drafted Johnson in 2008, I was very skeptical. Johnson was a smaller-school prospect who didn't do much at the college level. But I remember listening to Mike Keith on the radio talk about how CJ looked at camp. He was comparing him to players like Barry Sanders with his speed, acceleration, vision and change of direction. He was convinced that this player was going to be special. It's unlike Keith to talk about a player like that so it definitely boosted my confidence level. It wasn't long before I also knew Titans fans were in for a treat.
With the talent the Titans have added on offensive line, the depth at wide receiver and the mobility of Jake Locker, there is no reason to think Johnson couldn't lead the NFL in rushing for 2013. He’s the NFL’s deadliest weapon. The issue is, and always has been, that Johnson won’t break a lot of tackles. He won’t move the pile for yards.
In order for Johnson to be successful, he has to be put in space. When he has space, he's as good as any running back. Even though the Titans seem to have missed this fact the last few years, Johnson certainly did not. He made those feelings known to the public.
It seems as though the Titans are finally listening. Johnson infamously tweeted "THANK GOD" when the Titans drafted rookie Chance Warmack. The Titans have done everything possible to create more space for their franchise running back. It's about time. I'm thrilled to see what Johnson can do this season.
If the first preseason game was telling at all, then an exciting season awaits.
Of course that's only my opinion. Let's look at how a division rival views CJ2K. Here is PFS Colts Team Journalist Jake Arthur.
Although Chris Johnson is one of the NFL's best runners in recent memory, I don't get anxiety when the Indianapolis Colts face the Tennessee Titans. Johnson is an awesome running back who may find himself in the Hall of Fame if he continues to churn out seasons like he has (all five seasons over 1,000 yards).
For some reason, the Colts have his number. In nine career games against the Colts, Johnson averages about 67 yards rushing per game, 31 yards receiving and one touchdown per three games. This is not to dog Johnson but it just makes me feel shiny inside knowing that there is a top-tier running back in the AFC South who doesn't always kill the Colts (I'm looking at you Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew).
On a more positive note, Johnson is one of my favorite runners to watch when he is not facing the Colts. His open-field speed is second-to-none. On occasion, if Johnson doesn't have a good lane, then he’ll get creative and reverse the field. This makes things exciting. The fact that he averages 1,377 rushing yards per season to go along with nearly 10 touchdowns speaks for itself. These are averages for his five-year career, not just a couple of good years.
Heading into 2013, Johnson has a lot of promise. The Titans' front office took his offseason criticism of his blockers to heart. They signed the top free-agent interior offensive lineman in guard Andy Levitre. They drafted one of the top interior offensive lineman prospects in the last 15 years, Chance Warmack. They also drafted one of the better center prospects in Brian Schwenke. With a re-dedication to their star running back, it wouldn't be surprising if Johnson led the league in rushing in 2013.
Chris Johnson is truly is one of the deadliest weapons in the NFL.
The Patriots are a good team that never seems to have a RB like Chris Johnson. How does PFS Patriot Team Journalist Charles Toomajian III feel about that?
Chris Johnson is the type of running back that Patriots fans have dreamed about for years but whose skill set for some reason doesn't fit within the coach's philosophy. New Englanders have lustily watched highlights of Johnson darting between defenders and then putting on the afterburners to break away, only to watch the Patriots trot out guys whose entire purpose seems to be to gain 3-4 yards without fumbling (Marion Barber, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, etc).
It has gotten better with the recent introductions of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, but it has largely been maddening.
Maybe, though, there has been a method. If Johnson is the home-run king of running backs, he hits those homers at the expense of his on-base percentage. Perhaps that's why SportsCenter has lately been a better friend to Johnson than in-depth statistics.
Simply put—his running style might not be a winning style. Getting caught dancing in the backfield or trying to bounce every run out wide kills drives more often than it pays off with long runs, with the obvious caveat that if the offensive line isn't doing its job, Johnson could have little choice.
The bad news: it's getting worse, especially as his outlier 2009 season gets further into the past (if you can't find Johnson on that list, just keep scrolling down). The good news: it's under his own control to fix the problem. Knowing when to give up on a potential long run and simply dive forward for a few yards is a skill that should theoretically get better with experience.
Johnson is too outrageously talented to not be a bigger help to his team.
Next, PFS Chiefs Team Journalist Seth Keysor provides perspective as a fan of a team with a remarkably similar running back.
I hate Chris Johnson.
It's not really his fault or anything. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy and he's an exceptional running back. But the stars have just aligned perfectly (or imperfectly) to make me despise the man. The same goes for most Kansas City Chiefs fans.
This might seem like a very random hatred. We're not division rivals. He's never killed us in a playoff game. He's not a particularly unlikable person. Despite that, I can give you two reasons why almost every Chiefs fan hates CJ2K.
First, we must travel back to 2008. The Chiefs are terrible and getting pounded by the Titans 27-3. Earlier in the quarter, we somehow allowed LenDale White to impossibly run for an 80-yard touchdown. At 1-5, we were already on our way to a garbage season. Tyler Thigpen was our quarterback and LenDale freaking White ran for an 80-yard touchdown. It doesn’t get lower than that. Until, of course, CJ2K breaks free for a 66-yard touchdown.
66? Coincidence? I think not. I'm on to you, CJ2K!
What does he do afterwards? He goes into the Chiefs’ "drummers" section and starts banging on the drums! That was the football equivalent of putting lipstick on a guy after you'd knocked him out with a single punch. Unforgivable.
Every Chiefs fan is tired of the constant comparisons between Jamaal Charles and CJ2K. Yes, they're both fast. Yes, they were both drafted in 2008. Because of those two things, talking heads are constantly acting as though they’re the same back.
Even worse, the phrase "poor man's Chris Johnson" were uttered about JC countless times in 2009 and for much of 2010. It was only when Charles proceeded to come within an eyelash of breaking the single-season record for YPC that phrase started to go away. The comparisons persist because they're both smaller, faster backs.
This bugs Chiefs fans (if you can't tell, we're a vindictive bunch). Charles now weighs around 215 pounds. He's got better vision, balance and breaks more tackles. His running style looks completely different (he's more "glider" and less "sprinter"). And yes, I admit: CJ2K is faster.
Bottom line: they're not all that similar. Some people say they are. I have no idea why this bothers me so much.
At the end of the day, the real reason I don't like Chris Johnson is the same reason most non-Titans fans don't like him: he's not on my team. And that really, really, stinks for me. And the Chiefs. Because regardless of everything else, I've never seen a player that gets to the second level the way that CJ2K does and is just GONE.
Health permitting, he'll be in the Hall of Fame.
It seems like I'm always chatting with this guy, PFS Broncos Team Journalist Lucas Polglaze. What's your thoughts on Mr. Johnson from up in the mountains?
Chris Johnson is a dangerous back. There is no question of that. Every time Johnson takes a handoff, you can't help but feel he has the ability to go the distance. He is a total home-run hitter. However, in the two contests when he has faced the Denver Broncos, Johnson has a pedestrian 32 carries for 74 yards with a fumble lost.
However, we're talking about a guy here whose nickname is CJ2K. Any time that someone has a "two thousand" in their name, that's someone to be scared of. Even the T1000 from the second Terminator movie only had one thousand.
Apparently, he's no Chris Johnson.
Although Johnson is without a doubt an elite NFL running back, he still hasn't proved it against my team; only in the highlight reels that I watch.
We'll see if things change this year.
Next on the mic is my man, PFS Patriots Team Journalist Mark Ahern Jr.. What's your take, Mark?
Chris Johnson is a player I truly look forward to watching in 2013. Johnson's legitimate track-star speed makes him one of the NFL’s most electrifying players.
Entering his sixth season, Johnson has developed into one of the league's foremost touchdown threats with the ability to break one on any given touch. With that in mind, word out of Titans Camp is that Johnson will see an expanded role in the Tennessee passing game. This is a wise move in the ever-evolving passing league that the NFL has become.
However, it begs the question: what took Tennessee so long to do this? Johnson has always been scary in open space. The Titans have now put Johnson into a position to be an even deadlier weapon by creating open space for him through screens and flat routes. The East Carolina Alum is far from a banger at running back. A shift to getting Johnson more touches outside of the tackles should only prolong his shelf life.
Johnson's carries may come down with the addition of Shonn Greene for short-yardage situations. However, with fewer totes, CJ2K still has a chance to increase his production through efficiency behind an improved offensive line. The sky is the limit for Johnson, especially with Tennessee finally best utilizing his skill set by making him a focal point of their passing attack.
Here’s the question: will it lead to victories?
Next, let's hear from PFS Vikings Team Journalist Chris Schad, a guy who has the pleasure of watching one of the best backs in recent memory suit up on a weekly basis.
As a football fan, I feel truly blessed to watch the best running back of the current generation carve up defenses every Sunday. That man would be Adrian Peterson. Some football fans would consider Chris Johnson a contender to Peterson's throne, but let's be honest.
I just picked myself up off the floor after falling out of my chair due to laughter.
Don't get me wrong. Johnson is one of the top backs in the NFL when he wants to be, but he has a little bit of Randy Moss in him. To see it, you have to look at how hard Johnson ran as an unknown rookie coming out of East Carolina in 2008 compared to how he's running as a well-paid feature back in the Titans' backfield.
Watching Peterson every week, I know what it looks like when a running back goes full on into holes while trying to turn everything into a touchdown. For Johnson, it's only there if it's there. If it isn’t, then his offensive line gets thrown under the bus.
The Titans have noticed this and decided to cater to Johnson's bickering by signing Andy Levitre and drafting another guard in Chance Warmack last April. In addition, the Titans have decided to make Johnson the centerpiece of the offense to hide many of Jake Locker's flaws.
Basically, it's time for Johnson to put up or shut up.
There's always the possibility that CJ-D'oh-Kay will silence his doubters with one monster season. There's just as good of a possibility that he'll underachieve and include head coach Mike Munchak in his wake as he tries to save his job.
Either way, Johnson may fool some of us. I can confidently say he's no Adrian Peterson.
On this edition of Around the SPOT we are going to close it out with PFS Project Manager Truth Hurts Huffman. Huffman also serves as the editor of Titan Sized, a Titans fan blog on the FanSided Network. Let's hear the Truth about CJ2K.
Can you outrun NFL player / track star / cheetah?
(Anything involving 2,000 yards)
Those are the two reoccurring themes whenever Chris Johnson talks with the media. Critics have labeled him as a selfish player because of his obsession with 2,000 yards. This past June, Johnson raised some eyebrows when he insisted that he’d prefer 2,000 rushing yards over 20 touchdowns. His reluctance toward the Shonn Greene signing didn’t help his cause.
Maybe Johnson is a bit too concerned with stats, however, he’s not entirely selfish. During a 2012 Monday Night Football telecast on Dec. 17, three days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 26 lives, Johnson wore a pair of cleats that had the names of each of the fallen victims. A magical moment transpired when Johnson ripped through the New York Jets defense en route to a 94-yard touchdown run. The Titans won 14-10.
Johnson auctioned off those shoes. All proceeds went toward the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The final bid came in at $9,098.88. Furthermore, Johnson reached out to the family of Grace McDonnell, a seven-year-old first-grader who was among the 26 deceased.
Can’t hate on him for that. One should appreciate Johnson for avoiding the off-field incidents that Adam “Pacman” Jones and other players kept getting into. He’s a bit arrogant but most of the great players are. That confidence is a significant reason for why superstars reach the heights they do.
Thank you for joining Pro Football Spot in this discussion of Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Everyone has paid their respects—and disrespects—to the NFL’s most electrifying playmaker. Watch this five-minute video to relive CJ2K’s best runs in all their glory.
Want more Around the SPOT? Stay tuned for discussions on players like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and A.J. Green. Give a shout out in the comments if there’s a certain player whom you’d like to see covered.
Major props to Chris Johnson for what he's accomplished and how he has used his talents for the Titans organization.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisJohnson28
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(Image designed by PFS, Edited by THH, Organized by CBO.)
(Image Credit, Film Web)
- jhutch, Truth Hurts Huffman, Jake Arthur and 5 others like this