Chris Johnson: 6 Titans Players That Improve with Him on the Field
Chris Johnson is back with the Tennessee Titans! Obviously, the fact that the fastest man in the NFL will be suiting up with the Titans again is a huge gain for the them. He is, after all, their best offensive weapon.
However, it isn't just Johnson himself that makes his presence on the field so valuable, but his effect on the play of his teammates as well.
Who gains the most from Johnson's return? Read on to find out.
1. Matt Hasselbeck
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This one is fairly obvious. Every quarterback likes to have a great running back to hand the ball to every now and then.
With Johnson on the field, Hasselbeck isn't the only guy who can step up and get the Titans out of a tight spot. With another difference maker on the field, Hasselbeck gets to occasionally reap the benefits of 30 and 40 yard plays that he didn't make himself.
A good rushing attack complements the passing attack, if for no other reason, because two ways to score are better than one.
Even better for Hasselbeck, defenses will line up seven or eight guys in the box to deal with Johnson, leaving a lot fewer defenders in the backfield to pick off interceptions.
Johnson can also catch the ball very well, giving Hasselbeck another target when things go sour.
Overall, Johnson will make Hasselbeck's job a lot easier in 2011.
2. Ahmard Hall
Ahmard Hall had a bit of an off year in 2010, but has looked great in the preseason so far. Every running back loves having a great fullback blocking for them (just ask Arian Foster), but every fullback loves having a great running back just as much.
Johnson benefits Hall by making his job easier. With a lesser running back, Hall has to block better and block for longer. With Johnson, Hall's occasional mistakes will matter less, and since Johnson is such a fast runner, Hall doesn't have to stay on his blocks as long as he would with anyone else.
If Ahmard Hall keeps playing at the level he's been playing in the preseason, expect Johnson to put up huge numbers once again.
3. Jared Cook
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They say that every rookie quarterback's best friend is his tight end. The reason is because when your primary targets are covered up, you can usually rely on the tight end to be open and to at least get a completion for a short gain.
Of course, tight ends do get covered occasionally. This is where Chris Johnson comes in.
Vince Young used Johnson as a receiver when everyone else was covered more than once last season. In the passing game, Chris Johnson essentially functions as another guy you can throw to when no one else is open.
Like I said with Hasselbeck, two heads are better than one. When defenders are looking around to cover bailout receivers, if the choice is either leave Jared Cook open or leave Chris Johnson open, they'll more likely than not choose to cover Johnson.
Jared Cook will be available to catch a lot more passes with Johnson on the field, and it will help him put up healthy numbers in 2011.
4. The Offensive Line
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This isn't so much one player that benefits as much as it is a group that benefits from Johnson's presence.
Much like Ahmard Hall, an offensive lineman's job is a lot harder when it takes a running back a long time to hit a hole. Restraining a 300 lb. defensive tackle takes a lot of energy, and every additional second that the linemen doesn't have to do that makes a tremendous difference.
With Johnson's ability to find and get through the hole quickly, the offensive linemen don't have to hold it open for as long. Furthermore, when those linemen make mistakes, like a missed step or something that collapses the hole too soon or doesn't open it up enough, Johnson's quickness can save the play.
Much like with Ahmard Hall, Chris Johnson makes the offensive line's job easier, which makes them better at it.
5. Kenny Britt
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If Johnson's holdout had lasted into the season, you can bet that Kenny Britt would have seen a lot more double coverages.
Now, with Johnson on the field, a lot of teams aren't going to want to commit that extra man to Britt when Johnson can break away and score a touchdown from any point on the field. With more single coverages, Britt will get a lot more catches.
Kenny Britt also benefits from Johnson the same way Hasselbeck does: it gives the Titans another playmaker.
Without Johnson, Britt would be Tennessee's biggest offensive weapon other than Hasselbeck and defenses would be focusing mostly on how to keep the ball out of Britt's hands. With Johnson there, Britt isn't the only one who is expected to be able to step up his game and be a clutch player in difficult situations.
6. Jamie Harper
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How could someone possibly benefit from the guy who he lost his job too? I'm glad you asked.
Jamie Harper was drafted for one reason: to be the third down running back. With Johnson out of the picture and Javon Ringer injured, Harper would have been the starting running back this season. While that would be great for him in the short-term, it wouldn't be the best in the long run.
With Johnson back, Harper is expected to just be the smash part of the smash-and-dash tandem he'll make with Johnson. His job is to get bigger, stronger and more powerful as a North and South rusher—nothing else.
If Johnson weren't there, he'd need to improve every aspect of his game. He'd need to be quicker, able to cut and move, able to catch, and able to make defenders miss. With Johnson, he can afford to hunker down and specialize at what he's already built to do.
Harper would've gotten a lot of touchdowns in 2011 with or without Johnson in the picture, but with Johnson, Jamie Harper gets to be half of the most potent rushing attack in the NFL instead of being just another nameless, faceless running back. And if you ask me, that's a lot better.