Buying or Selling Chris Johnson as a Tennessee Titan in 2013
Now, heading into its Week 10 bye week, Johnson has not only rebounded from the roughest start of his career, but also seems to have secured his place as Tennessee's primary running back for the foreseeable future.
Through the first three weeks of the year, Johnson rushed for 45 yards while averaging a minuscule 1.4 yards per carry, highlighted by an 11-carry, four-yard effort in Week 1 against the Patriots as well as a 24-yard effort against the Detroit Lions in Week 3.
Beyond just his struggles on the field, his attitude when discussing the failures of the run game left plenty to be desired, as he often deflected blame away from himself.
"I'm not the guy to sit here and be the guy that points fingers," Johnson told reporters in late September as reported by NFL.com. "It's a situation where I'm only going to be as good as my line is going to be, so we have to work together and get better together."
While Johnson began to show signs of life in Week 4, as he tallied 141 yards on 25 carries against a strong Houston Texans defense, he quickly followed that up with another sub-par performance against Minnesota the following week, leading to serious questions about his future with the franchise.
With his $10 million 2013 salary becoming fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the next league year, the Titans appeared to be facing a difficult choice as the majority of the offensive focus appeared to be directing towards building a strong passing game around young quarterback Jake Locker.
These days, however, the questions and doubts about Johnson's work ethic and ability to ever regain his 2009 CJ2K form seem to be shrinking with every passing day.
Following Johnson's 126-yard effort against the Dolphins on Sunday in which the Titans running back became the first rusher to break the 100-yard mark in 23 games, Johnson now sits in a tie for fourth place in the league in rushing yards and trails only Adrian Peterson in that category over the last six weeks.
"I think he's showing, and the run game is showing, what we thought it would be," Titans coach Mike Munchak told the media following Sunday's game (per the Titans official website). "And now (Johnson's) getting opportunities and the numbers are much better. I think he'll finish with six strong weeks."
Though statistics can often be deceiving, in Johnson's case, they seem to fully display what can also be seen on the field.
After showing indecisiveness as a runner throughout the first month of the season, Johnson's chemistry with his blockers appears to be growing as Johnson has begun to hit his cutback lanes while also bursting through holes with the kind of explosiveness that enabled him to set the league on fire in his first three seasons with the Titans.
Beyond just his success as a runner, his ability to once again become a vital piece of the offense has also led to a shift in his attitude, as he has displayed a willingness to make blocks in blitz pickup and the willingness make plays away from the ball.
“That is something you have to do when you want to become a complete back,” Johnson said (via The Tennessean) following the Dolphins game. “Any time you are making $50 million, those are the things you have to do.”
With more of a team-first attitude as well as the increased production, little doubt remains about where Johnson should be suiting up in 2013.
Surrounded by an offense consisting of young playmakers in quarterback Jake Locker and receivers Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright, Johnson can supply the type of big-play rushing threat that forces defenses to come into the box and attack the run, leaving less safety help over the top and aiding the offense in its attempt to be one of the more complete units in the league.
With all of the above factors coming into play, it's time for all Titans fans to buy into the notion that Chris Johnson will be a member of the Tennessee Titans when September of 2013 rolls around.
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