How Chris Johnson Rediscovered Himself in Week 7
The deadly speedster rushed 18 times for 195 yards with two touchdowns, one score coming in the first quarter on a lightning quick 83-yard bolt.
Now, his yards per carry average sits at 4.5, around where it should be.
Whenever a running back goes for 10.8 yards per rush in one game, such a masterful outing has to be examined.
Johnson, for the most part, ran decisively behind his blockers and made some devastatingly explosive cuts that made him a 2,000-yard runner three years ago.
However, let's keep in mind, this rebirth came against the same Bills run defense that allowed 311 yards on the ground to a San Francisco 49ers team in Week 5 and was gashed by the New England Patriots' running attack to the tune of 247 yards on 6.2 yards per rush the week before.
The linebacking corps of Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard and rookie Nigel Bradham were utterly confused by Johnson's nimbleness and the Titans' cutback runs. In short, they simply were rendered useless at the second level.
Let's look at his first touchdown in the opening quarter.
The Titans were lined up in a traditional I-formation.
At the snap, Johnson followed his fullback up the middle who locked onto Bills middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. Outside linebacker Nigel Bradham got destroyed by Tennessee's right guard.
Now, the early 2012 Johnson may have simply ran straight into the back of his lead blocker and fell forward for a menial three or four yard gain.
The 2009 Johnson would have noticed a gaping hole to the right, hit it to the outside and burn the rest of the defenders to the endzone.
That's precisely what happened on this play.
Although Buffalo's linebackers have tremendous struggles recognizing the run, shedding blocks and filling the correct running lanes, Johnson's ability to set up those defenders up and cut through the proper holes with prolific acceleration is extremely encouraging.
Watch how patient he was on his long touchdown run and how he burst through the hole when it opened.
From a similar I-form, again, Johnson followed his lead blocker who sealed outside linebacker Nick Barnett.
Recognizing that running directly behind the center wasn't an option, he cut off the hip of his fullback and was nearly at full speed by the time he reached the second level.
Then, it was a foot race to the end zone.
Johnson won't lose many of those.
Also, he made defenders miss and ran out of a handful of arm tackles, something the 5'11'', 190-pound back wasn't doing with much regularity to start the year.
In the first six games of Tennessee's season, Johnson was timid through the holes and was rarely making defenders miss in space.
Johnson's world-class speed and athletic talent never left him, and, finally, his psychological edge has returned.
In the open field, there isn't a more dangerous player wearing a Nike NFL uniform.
Now, don't allow a 195-yard explosion that featured an 83-yard run against the league's worst-run defense, a group that's on pace to set a handful of records for porous play, skewing projections for the Titans running back as the season progresses.
However, we mustn't rule out what such a brilliant effort will do for the psyche of a premier talent who was lacking confidence for the majority of the year.
Johnson faced a weak opponent, and made the most of it—2009 Chris Johnson would be proud.
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