Chris Johnson let his frustrations be known yesterday after two straight games of being shut down.
According to John Glennon of the Tennessean, Johnson said the following on Monday:
“People need to step up and do their job, they don’t need to let people beat them. It don’t matter who the opposing defense is, you can’t let your guy beat you. You just can’t give up plays. You have to make plays like they make plays. I can’t speak for the defense. I can only speak for the offense.”
Johnson's gripes come after a 38-10 drubbing at the hands of the San Diego Chargers, a game in which he ran for just 17 yards on eight carries. He now has 21 yards on 19 carries on the season, even worse than what he did last season after Week 2.
Johnson is frustrated, and for good reason. His offensive line allowed penetration on every rushing attempt and Johnson, once again, had no room to run. It seems to be a trend for the running game, as this was the case in many a game last season.
Considering the fact that he signed a huge contract last year after a long holdout, people who blame Johnson for the offense being the way it is do have a little bit of firepower. However, the fact that he signed a huge contract can be used both ways.
Other than the signing of Steve Hutchinson, the Titans really did not address the offensive line last year, which was the problem in the first place. If you're going to sign a guy to a contract like Johnson's, the very least you can do afterwards is give him an offensive line that will actually block for him.
The Titans had a chance to get a good, young guard in David DeCastro, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but is out for the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL); they selected wide receiver Kendall Wright instead.
There's no guarantee DeCastro would have gotten the injury in Tennessee, and they could have had a huge upgrade over LeRoy Harris, who has shown absolutely no signs of improvement. Fernando Velasco also hasn't been much of an improvement over the injured Eugene Amano.
When you have two Hall of Fame offensive linemen (head coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews) on your coaching staff, you should have a top 10 rushing team every single season. The Titans finished 31st last season, and are currently last this season.
Another difficult aspect is play-calling. It seems that Munchak and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer give up on the running game way too early. With former head coach Jeff Fisher, the Titans would not give up on the run, even down 21. On Sunday, once the Titans were down 14, they went immediately to the shotgun, and did not run very often.
The Titans run a lot of dives, isos, and other inside running plays, but Johnson is not a good inside runner, even during his 2000+ yard season. He is a much better off-tackle and sweep runner, considering how fast he is. The Titans have the personnel to do this, with tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart being one of the best tackle tandems in the league.
With an athlete like Johnson, you need to play to his strengths, and Munchak and Palmer have not done a good job at all in that regard over the past two seasons.
To blame Johnson completely for the struggles of the running game is absolutely ridiculous, considering how bad the offensive line is and how little help he's gotten so far with the passing game.
Second-year quarterback Jake Locker hasn't been awful, but also hasn't played well enough to take the pressure off the running game.
Simply put, the running game being ineffective and inefficient is not completely Johnson's fault, although there have been a few plays in which he dances around a little too much, trying to force the issue, which is what I believe people point at when they blame him for the offensive struggle.
Still, he doesn't do that every single play. Most of the time, he can't get out of the backfield because there is a guy in his face each time. He isn't really doing anything differently than he was in 2009, when he nearly broke the single-season rushing record.
He has every right to be fed up with the way this offense is, and so does every Titans fan and fantasy owner with Johnson and other Titans players on the roster.
My point is just be selective on who you put all the blame on.