The Tennessee Titans were able to erase some of the bad taste left in their collective mouths after back-to-back bad losses with a 27-10 victory over the hapless Indianapolis Colts Sunday, but one of the biggest issues facing the team may now be an even bigger problem than ever.
After once again being completely ineffective in today's game, running back Chris Johnson watched most of the fourth quarter of the Titans victory from the bench, as Tennessee used third-year pro Javon Ringer to grind out the clock.
While Johnson managed only 51 total yards on 17 touches, Ringer topped 100 yards from scrimmage and gained a respectable 4.3 yards per carry.
It was only two short seasons ago that Chris Johnson electrified the National Football League by gaining 2,006 rushing yards, and the fourth-year veteran backed that up by gaining over 1,600 total yards and scoring 12 total touchdowns in 2010.
But after a nasty contract dispute and holdout wiped out much of an offseason already cut precariously short by this year's lockout, Johnson has been pathetic to this point in the 2011 campaign, topping 100 yards rushing in only one game and gaining a microscopic 2.8 yards per carry entering today's action.
Johnson's has shown none of the explosiveness this year that made him such a dangerous player the past three, looking slow, indecisive, and going down easily at first contact.
At this point, the reasons why Johnson has struggled so mightily aren't nearly as important as the simple fact that Johnson is doing very little to help the Titans win football games.
Meanwhile, Ringer has shown the ability throughout his brief career to be productive when afforded the opportunity, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
While the former Michigan State standout is nowhere near the home-run threat that Johnson is (or at least was), he is a more physical runner who is more than capable of grinding out tough yardage between the tackles and affording the Tennessee Titans a desperately needed second dimension to their offense.
The Tennessee Titans aren't going to beat many teams in the NFL if they're forced to throw the ball 50 times a game, as the team just isn't built that way and has already lost their top wide receiver in Kenny Britt to a torn ACL.
Johnson's ineptitude on the ground was forcing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to do just that. It was reflected quite brightly in the Titans last two defeats, and at this point it appears that the Titans stand their best chance of making a push in the AFC South with Javon Ringer in the backfield.
I'm not yet ready to say that Javon Ringer is a more "complete" running back, or even a better football player, and given the enormous financial investment the Titans recently made in Johnson, one has to think that the Tennessee coaching staff and front office desperately want to figure out the problem with Chris Johnson, fix it, and get him back to terrorizing opposing defenses.
However, a player's value to his team can't be determined by the size of his paycheck, and the Titans are almost certainly, at this point, a more "complete" team with Ringer and not Johnson on the field.
So if Tennessee is serious about contending for the AFC South title, their best chance of doing so lies in making today's benching more than a one-quarter deal.