Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean that he is still the best running back in the NFL. While I appreciate his confidence, Johnson is foolish to make such a claim after a pedestrian season in 2011.
In 2009, Johnson spent his second NFL season dominating the competition. He rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, while also adding 50 receptions for 503 yards and two scores. It was a remarkable season that will go down as one of the best for a running back in football history.
He followed that up by rushing for 1,364 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in 2010. But last season after a protracted contract holdout, Johnson was, at best, an average running back.
He rushed for 1,047 yards and just four touchdowns on 262 carries. That average of 4.0 yards per carry was the worst of his career. He did catch 57 passes but only gained 418 receiving yards and didn't add any touchdowns through the air.
Thirteen players rushed for more yards than Johnson in 2011. Right now you would have a tough time convincing NFL fans that he is markedly better than Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson (assuming he is healthy) or Ray Rice.
Johnson certainly has the potential to be the NFL's best back, but after an awful 2011 campaign there is no reason to believe he's still the same guy who had that historic 2009 season.
There is no doubt that Johnson is a special talent who has done some great things in the NFL. But last year the 26-year-old completely disappointed everyone around the league after signing a six-year, $55.26 million contract. He certainly didn't live up to that contract. Maybe this year he can turn that around.
Until he gets back to the level he played at in 2009, he won't be considered the NFL's best running back.