After a really slow start, the NFL's premier speed back has a couple of solid games under his belt. Against the vaunted Houston defense, the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson rushed for 141 yards on 25 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
After a game to forget against Minnesota, he was nearly as effective against Pittsburgh, rushing for 91 yards in 19 attempts, putting up another 23 yards receiving.
The upcoming matchup is a Bills defense that gives up a league-worst average of 173.5 yards per game, so he looks to have yet another big game.
So, assuming he does well against Buffalo, has Chris Johnson turned his season around and saved his job for another season?
Not a chance.
I know that his poor performance has not entirely been his fault. The offensive play-calling has been predictable, the offensive line has not been getting its blocks like it needs to, and the Titans have played a tough schedule so far.
These things are true, but the important thing to remember about any football team is that it is first and foremost a business. And Chris Johnson is not good for business.
Under Johnson's current contract, he'll be paid over $12 million in 2013. That is a lot of money for any position, especially for a running back.
That's the kind of money you pay to a player that makes the difference in games, and that is something that Johnson has been unable to deliver so far in 2012.
Of his two decent performances, one came in a blowout loss where the opposing defense wanted to primarily prevent the pass (Houston), and the other came against a defense missing multiple starters (Minnesota) and giving up 95 rushing yards per game when healthy (Johnson got 91).
That is not the kind of performance you pay $12 million for. That's not the kind of performance you pay $6 million for.
The fact of the matter is that Johnson is drastically overpaid. He's either going to be faced with a huge renegotiation of his contract or be cut by the Titans front office.
Even in his game against the Steelers Thursday night, commentator Mike Mayock pointed out several runs that got quite a few yards but could have gotten a lot more if Johnson had just run instead of try to make every defender miss over and over.
This brings up another knock against Johnson: He isn't doing as he's told.
In the first game against the Patriots, Johnson had 11 rushes for four yards. One reason was that he was hit in the backfield a lot due to poor blocking. Another reason was his refusal to take the holes he was given.
This breakdown of each of his runs makes it pretty clear. If Johnson were not trying to hit a home run with every swing, he'd at least be getting the Titans three or four yards on most of his carries. This is something that the coaching staff is certainly aware of, and I guarantee that they have communicated this to Johnson.
However, he is still doing the same thing, which tells me one thing: he isn't listening, and it's hurting the team.
I don't care how bad the offensive line play has been this season. If Johnson is only going to give the Titans, at best, what the offensive line gives him, then he has no business making the money he does. And if he's not going to listen to the coaches, he's a bad example to keep around on a very young team.
Finally, there's the fact that he hasn't been taking his share of the blame for the offensive struggles.
I can't see Johnson sticking around in 2013. As far as I'm concerned, any success he has now is too little, too late, and this will be his last season with the Tennessee Titans.
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