Chris Johnson Stays Underrated Despite Another 150 Yard Performance

Joe HuberCorrespondent INovember 24, 2009

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 23:  Running Back Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans carries the ball against safety Eugene Wilson #26 of the Houston Texans on November 23, 2009  at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.  The Titans won 20-17.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

In 1997, Barry Sanders, arguably the greatest running back of all time, rushed for 150-plus yards five times through 16 games.

Through 10 games in 2009, Adrian Peterson (of Minnesota), arguably the best running back of this era, has rushed for 150-plus yards once. Peterson did it three times in 2008.

Chris Johnson, of the Tennessee Titans, has rushed for 150-plus yards three times through 10 games so far in 2009, and only did it once in 2008.

Let me make this clear, Peterson is the better running back of the two. Johnson is unquestionably having the better season.

I won't make the mistake of saying that defenses don't know Johnson or that they aren't aware of his presence. The scheme of "eight men in the box" frequently proves that.

Johnson deserves to be talked about in the MVP conversation, but you really don't hear much about him on national radio. Granted, on ESPN radio this morning, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg both talked about how good Johnson is, but that also had the prerequisite of a 151 yard performance on a Monday night game.

This isn't about whether or not Johnson is better than any other player in the league, in large part because he's played in a whopping 25 NFL games.

This is about a player being in the midst of a phenomenal season. Johnson's already rushed for more yards in 2009 than he had in 2008.

Johnson should be more than just discussed when it comes to the MVP talks as well.

Behind the bad offensive line that resides in Nashville, Johnson has rushed for 1,242 yards (that's more than 200 yards between him and second place), has scored eight rushing touchdowns so far, and played exceptionally well even when the defenses he was facing were focusing on him alone.

He has even helped play a vital role in the passing game, giving Kerry Collins an outlet when he was playing terrible, and allowing Vince Young a check-down option who just needs the ball to make something happen.

With 30 receptions so far this season, he has more catches than Laveranues Coles, Lee Evans, Braylon Edwards, and Roy Williams (of Dallas). He has 262 receiving yards, which isn't great, but averages at 8.7 yards per catch.

That's just higher than Peterson with 8.6. It's also higher than LaDanian Tomlinson (4.4).

Johnson has played his team out from the abyss of an 0-6 start, to the glimmer of hope that they have now. 4-6 is not a good record, but it's a step in the right direction.

I won't pretend like Vince Young isn't a big reason the Titans are clawing their way back into the playoff picture, but Johnson was the only thing the fans in Tennessee were smiling when they lost 59-0 to New England.

Think about this, in a 59-0 game Johnson rushed for 128 yards. In a game where the Titans were throwing for the large part, he rushed for 128 yards.

That was on 17 carries.

Johnson isn't going to win the MVP though, not this season. Not with a 4-6 record, not with the media darlings in Peyton Manning and Brett Favre playing better than good football (Manning actually deserving of the award).

So instead of dwelling on who should win a trophy for being awesome at the end of the season, I urge you to start watching Chris Johnson be awesome the rest of the season.