In many people's eyes, Chris Johnson underperformed last season. As a matter of fact, to some, that's a total understatement.
After having career lows in rushing yards (1,047), yards per carry (4.0) and rushing touchdowns (four), that case could definitely be made. While these stats certainly aren't the worst that a running back could put up, they weren't even close to the expectations of a running back who just two seasons ago ran for over 2,000 yards and also broke the record for the most total offensive yards in a single season.
You can blame the offensive line all you want, and rightfully so; they do deserve at least some of the blame, but CJ2K holding out at the beginning of the lockout-shortened training camp didn't help matters at all. Once he finally did get his contract, shortly before the season started, CJ2K just wasn't CJ2K anymore.
He was not very judicious when it came to picking holes to run through, danced around a bit too much in the backfield and just didn't seem to click with the offense at all. Johnson even got booed at certain points, and many Titans fans wanted to see him on the bench in favor of backup Javon Ringer.
Not only did his struggles frustrate Titans fans, but it also frustrated many fantasy owners, as Johnson was one of the biggest commodities in fantasy football last season. Johnson was selected in the first round of many fantasy leagues—and was even drafted first overall in plenty of them as well—so his underachievement really left many fantasy owners scratching their heads.
It's a whole new season now. According to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport, Johnson is looking like the old CJ2K, and could be primed to have a big year. Maybe not a 2,000-yard season like he had in 2009, but a big year nonetheless. He may have to if the Titans have any hopes of a playoff berth, and possibly winning the division title.
Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker are currently battling for the starting quarterback job. If Locker wins the battle (and I believe he will), his success could lean on how well Johnson can run the ball, especially with it being his first season as the starter.
Last year, the Titans finished 31st in the league in running the football. In order to for them to succeed this season, they will almost certainly have to do a whole lot better than the 89.9 rushing yards per game average that they put up in 2011, and it all starts with Johnson.
If he really is the "Chris Johnson of old," the Titans offense should flourish behind him. If not, then this could be another long season in Nashville.