A few years ago (2009), Tennessee running back Chris Johnson became only the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000-plus yards in a single season. In addition, he set the NFL single-season record for most yards from scrimmage (2,509) that year.
Since then, however, it's been downhill (or uphill, depending on your perspective) for CJ2K.
With his prolonged holdout last offseason, Johnson had the worst season of his career and had a lot of weeks that he (and fantasy owners) would have preferred to forget.
Last season, Johnson set career lows in rushing yards (1,047), yards per carry (4.0) and touchdowns (four). Those numbers actually make his production look better than it really was.
CJ2K had four 100-yard rushing games last season, all of which were against bad run defenses: Cleveland, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Those last three games occurred during a four-game span starting in Week 10 that made it look like he was returning to his old self.
Instead Johnson had no more than 61 rushing yards in any of the final four games and averaged only 48.8 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry during that span.
If you exclude his really productive four-game stretch, Johnson had 177 carries for 561 yards and one touchdown in 12 games. That is an average of 46.75 yards per game and 3.17 yards per carry.
On a positive note, Johnson set a career high in receptions (57) and had his second-highest total in receiving yards (418). Through four NFL seasons, Johnson has had 43-plus receptions each season.
Fast forward a year, Johnson has accepted more of a leadership role and has looked impressive during the offseason.
"C.J.’s had a great camp," Munchak said on NFL Network’s NFL AM show (via Sporting News). "About being here, having a great sense of what we’re doing, running with confidence, he’s doing exactly what we want him to do. Now it’s just a matter of us getting into the regular season and hopefully putting last season behind us.
"C.J. is a guy who can make plays in a lot of ways. We cannot forget that he can make a lot of plays catching the ball because of that speed, he can make plays at any time. So he’s going to be a big part (of our offense), he knows that, he’s excited about it."
That said, he hasn't had a great preseason. Through three games, Johnson has 28 carries for only 81 yards (2.9 yards per carry).
Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to running backs last year by all of the Titans' opponents this year, Johnson and the Titans' RBs have the second-least favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective. That said, they have the 10th-most favorable schedule in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
Johnson has had an impressive offseason and much less impressive preseason. While Johnson is unlikely to approach his 2009 numbers, he should bounce back from his woeful 2011 numbers. Unfortunately for owners who draft Johnson, they will likely have to invest a top 5-8 pick in order to secure Johnson's services, which means you're already factoring in an improvement from last season.
Rushing: 1,285 yards, eight TDs
Receiving: 55 Receptions, 405 yards, one TD