Why Chris Johnson Needs to Run His Mouth Less and Between the Tackles More
The 27-year-old Johnson, who rushed for 1,243 yards a season ago, took to the airwaves Wednesday, proclaiming on ESPN's "NFL Live" that he will outgain Minnesota's Adrian Peterson on the ground next season.
The Tennessee Titans running back was asked if he or Peterson, who threatened the all-time rushing record with his 2,097 yards in 2012, would have more rushing yards next season.
"Of course, '2K," Johnson said, referring to his nickname -- CJ2K -- which he received after rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009.
When asked how confident he felt about his answer, he said he was "Very confident. I've always been a confident guy ... if you want something to happen you have to speak on it, you have to believe in it. You just got to pray and God will lead you there. I know the type of guy that I am, the type of back that I am and if the situation is right I know I can do it," he said.
That last part about the situation being right is somewhat telling since Johnson then went on the NFL Network's "Around the League" and proceeded to lay the blame for his struggles at times last season squarely on the shoulders of his offensive line.
"What a lot of people don't understand, I was playing with an offensive line that only had one starter. I had four offensive linemen hurt. I felt like I did good with the situation I was dealt."
"I had to cross over some hurdles, but I never sat there and made excuses. I just dealt with whatever was given to me and just played with it."
Apparently when he was talking about not making excuses, he forgot about last season's miserable start and the comments he made after Tennessee's Week 2 loss to San Diego, when he told The Nashville Tennessean via Pro Football Talk that "people need to start doing their jobs."
Now, this isn't meant to be a bash-fest on Chris Johnson. The five-year veteran is an immensely talented running back who still managed 4.5 yards a carry last year behind a patchwork line.
You know, that line he keeps chucking under the bus.
However, there's a reason why Chris Johnson hasn't sniffed his gaudy second-year numbers since then, and to find it, all Chris Johnson has to do is look in a mirror.
As Johnson showed last year with his 94-yard touchdown run against the New York Jets, when the hole is there he will explode through it, and once he hits the open field he remains one of the hardest players in the NFL to catch.
That's the problem though. Since his breakout 2009 season Johnson has become much more tentative in the backfield. If there isn't a hole big enough to drive a truck through, he dances around or kicks it outside far too often.
Johnson hasn't done himself any favors either. According to Pro Football Focus, in two of the past three seasons Johnson has ranked outside the top 50 players at his position in yards after contact.
Also, Johnson's "Elusiveness Rating", which according to Pro Football Focus "boils down a runner's success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers," has steadily gotten worse each season since his breakout 2009 campaign.
How many yards will Chris Johnson rush for in 2013?
By weight of comparison, Peterson led all running backs in the NFL in yards after contact in 2012, and his elusiveness rating trailed only Buffalo's C.J. Spiller.
All this isn't to say that Johnson should try to be like Adrian Peterson. They're different players that bring different things to the table.
It is to say, however, that there's more to running for 2,000 yards than straight-line speed, dancing around behind the line of scrimmage and going down if a linebacker frowns at you.
Especially at $10 million a season.
Can Chris Johnson rush for 2,000 yards? Well yeah. I'd look pretty silly saying otherwise given that he's already done it once.
However, over the past three seasons Johnson hasn't given much indication that he's going to do it again, and all the boasting and television interviews in the world isn't going to change that.
He has to show that on the football field.
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