Chris Johnson Needs to Run the Football, Not His Mouth

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

Time for more go and less gab from Chris Johnson.
Time for more go and less gab from Chris Johnson.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Reading The Tennessean this morning was like deja vu all over again.

Chris Johnson declared that from now on, things would be different.

The mercurial Titans running back told Jim Wyatt that 2012 would be a reprise of his glory days and not the uneven play that marked him in 2011. Johnson said,

“Things are going to be better this year. I came in in better shape, and I feel like being here really helped me a lot. I am not coming in trying to get on the same page as my offensive line, like last season. I am more comfortable. I’ll be all right, I know that.”

I feel like I've heard all of this before from Johnson. He loves to talk about how good he is and how good he feels.

He made excuses after the Arizona game in Week 3.

He laughed off a miserable performance against Seattle to open the preseason slate.

All throughout the 2011 season, there would be quotes about how Johnson had turned the corner, about how he was finally in shape, about how we were about to see the "real Chris Johnson" now.

He started slowly before ripping off 101 yards against the Browns. Over his next three weeks, he posted just 103 yards combined.

He turned the corner in November with 130 and a score against the Panthers, but piled up just 13 the next week.

He finally had it figured out with consecutive weeks totaling 343 yards. The crisis was averted. The Titans were cruising toward a playoff berth.

The only problem was that Johnson averaged fewer than 50 yards a game and less than 3.5 yards a carry down the stretch.

Every time Johnson opens his mouth to declare a return to the CJ2K days of yore, he seems to follow up with a half-hearted effort and a mediocre rushing total.

This is a make-or-break year for Johnson, and a potential Hall of Fame career is teetering on the edge of irrelevance. The Titans can walk away from his deal after this season, and if he doesn't post big numbers they may have little choice but to do so.

It's fine to wax eloquent about conditioning and leg strength, but much of that comes from a desire to be in shape, a desire to work hard. I'm not convinced he has either at this stage of his career. I want to hear him be angry about a bad performance. He needs to take some ownership and blame and bag the excuses. He needs to stop telling fans how he is going to be great and just go out and be great.

Johnson may run up a buck fifty against New England this week, and Titans nation will rejoice. If he does and the follows it up for more than a game or two, I'll be more than happy to listen to him talk about how good he feels and how fast he is.

Until then, consider my enthusiasm curbed.