Tennessee Titans: Jamie Harper Needs Bigger Role in the Offense

Chad MintonCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 24: Jamie Harper #23 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field on December 24, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There were a lot of improvements made by the Tennessee Titans in Mike Munchak's first season as head coach, but the running game wasn't one of them.

For a franchise that has always prided itself on having a reliable running game, last season was a major disappointment.

Chris Johnson caught a lot of the blame for that, but it wasn't completely his fault. The offensive line could've played better, and the short time to prepare in the offseason didn't help either.

Even though Johnson should have at least somewhat of a bounce-back year, he still needs someone to complement him in the backfield.

The answer is Jamie Harper, who was barely used at all last season. When he was used, it was usually in meaningless situations that didn't play to his strengths.

Harper is a powerful runner that makes his own holes in the defense rather than waiting for them. Think of LenDale White, minus the tequila.

The truth is that defenses have figured out Johnson. Not to the point that they can completely stop him, but he'll never be as dominant as he was when he burst onto the scene in 2009.

Inserting Harper into a more primary role in the offense will do nothing but help Johnson's overall game. Many teams use two-back systems, and the Titans need to do the same.

Johnson isn't an every-down running back like Eddie George was for the Titans nearly a decade ago.

Instead, Johnson is better suited to get those opportunities to change the game in just one play, while being complemented by a running back like Harper that can pick up consistent chunks of yardage.

There were way too many times last season when Johnson failed to gain anything on first down, and that kept the offense from improving even more than it already did.

The improvements that were made are mainly thanks to Matt Hasselbeck and his veteran leadership.

How well the running game performs during their opening four-game stretch will be vital to how the 2012 season goes for the Titans.

Hopefully Munchak and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer are planning to use Harper a lot more than last season, especially in short yardage situations.

If they don't plan on using him for more than 17 attempts, like last season, then what was the point in using a fourth-round draft pick on him in 2011?

Now obviously Javon Ringer will have something to say about this in training camp. If Ringer proves to the coaching staff that he's more valuable at being Johnson's primary backup, then that could keep Harper in the same role he was in last season.

There's no reason that both backups can't be used whenever Johnson needs a breather, or whenever a change of pace is needed.

However, Harper just seems like the better fit for what this team is trying to accomplish. They need a bruiser, and Harper is just the player for that moving forward.