Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson
The Tennessee Titans have always hung around. Most seasons they are near .500 and potentially in the playoff hunt. In 2012 the Titans will have a lot riding on veteran running back Chris Johnson's legs. With second-year man Jake Locker stepping in at quarterback, it will be essential for Chris Johnson to return to his 2009 form.
The Titans have gotten younger recently, but they have not had to make an upgrade at running back because CJ2K is only entering his fifth year as a professional.
Tennessee has a strong defense, so it is up to the offense to perform. It is clear that the Titans' most important veteran is Chris Johnson.
Titans running back Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson has been considered a home run threat since he entered the league in 2008. He possesses a combination of speed and elusiveness that many backs dream of. For the Titans to be successful in 2012, CJ2K will have to be in top shape.
This preseason he has drawn a lot of attention. The fifth-year runner has had a great camp and looks like he can "make plays at any time" according to Titans coach Mike Munchak in an NFL AM interview (h/t Sporting News).
Johnson is always fantastic at catching passes out of the backfield and his ability in open space makes him a threat to score a touchdown on any play.
I expect Johnson to have a big bounce back year. It wouldn't be surprising to see him amass 1800 total yards and 10 or more touchdowns.
With Jake Locker taking over the starting spot it will be important for Johnson to help the youngster find his comfort zone.
Chris Johnson will look for a leadership role with Titans
When he was first drafted by the Titans, running back Chris Johnson came to a team that had long-time veterans Jevon Kearse and Keith Bulluck. Both players were excellent leaders in the locker room and players Johnson could look up to.
As he enters his fifth year in the league, Johnson is poised to be the leader the Titans desperately need. Speaking to The Tennessean in June, Johnson said "ever since I came in I wanted to be a guy people could look at as a leader." Thus far in the preseason he has become just that.
Head Coach Mike Munchak agrees:
Chris doesn’t have to say a word to lead. I think just the fact that he is here every day and the fact that he is out there working hard and in the weight room…I think that is encouraging for everyone to see and that is what you want from one of your top players is that kind of attitude which he has had. He has been awesome.
Chris was prepared to be a leader for this team, and he is showing that he has what it takes to be that strong presence for the young guns.
Titans star Chris Johnson bursting through the hole
Following the 2011 season, Johnson had many critics wondering whether he would ever play like he did in 2009. But his biggest critic was himself. Johnson stated on multiple occasions his disgust in his performance through out the season.
On the Jim Rome show in June, Johnson was quoted as saying (h/t ProFootballTalk):
I feel like a lot of people have written me off, I still went over 1,000 yards but it wasn’t a CJ2K year. So a lot of people are going to write me off.
Chris Johnson has worked harder than ever to prove he is still an elite running back, which he truly believes he is.
He understands that "in order for my team to make it to the playoffs, make it to the Super Bowl, I’m going to have to be the best."
CJ2K has even studied film of himself from 2009 looking for the little things that led to his massive success.
He also knows that not everything can be on him. Speaking with the Associated Press (h/t ESPN) Johnson said that "if they throw the ball well, it can help me because it will back some of those guys out of the box."
Everything appears to be falling into place for Johnson to have a big year. He's become the type of veteran that coaches wish more players could become. As a leader, threat and competitor Johnson is ready to take on his goal of becoming the first runner ever to go over 2,000 yards twice.
If he can manage that, the Titans will be in contention in 2012.