(Sports Network) - It's not an enigma the Tennessee Titans are last in the NFL
in rushing yards per game over the first two weeks.
However, it is a mystery how Chris Johnson can't find a hole to run through
out of the gate.
A 2,000-yard rusher back in 2009, Johnson is off to a lethargic start with 21
yards on 19 carries. He was completely taken out of the New England game in
Week 1, rushing for a career-low four yards on 11 attempts. He then recorded 17
yards on eight touches in last Sunday's loss at San Diego.
Having disappointed fantasy football enthusiasts, Johnson gets a crack at
former Titans defensive coordinator and current Detroit Lions head coach Jim
Schwartz Sunday afternoon. In a conference call with the Titans, Schwartz
expressed how important it is to stop Johnson regardless of his struggles.
"We need to be on our game to stop a guy like Chris Johnson. He's a guy that
you have to respect for 60 minutes of the game, because at any time he can get
loose. We're all judged on, again, what happens in 16 games, not what happens
in two," Schwartz said. "When I was there, there were a lot of years that
Eddie George started off slow and everybody was panicking and saying, 'What's
wrong with him?' He always answered the bell. Now we have to make sure that
Chris Johnson doesn't get it started this week."
Johnson's performance this season is not injury-related and the offensive line
is pretty much intact. It's all about being patient and hitting the right
spots at an opportune time. Johnson said during a conference call that "it's
very frustrating" to not be able to get into a groove, but knows "it always
The Titans, who are averaging an NFL-worst 29 rushing yards per game, need
things to get better right away in order to avoid an 0-3 start, the first
since opening the 2009 season with six straight defeats.
"It's real tough, but at the end of the day there's 14 games left," Johnson
said. "So, it will be all right. It's just a situation where I'm going to be
only as good as my line is going to be. So we gotta work together and get
better together. Last year, it was tough times and it got better toward the
end. Just, hopefully, it can get better quicker than it did last year."
Johnson averaged 32.6 yards over the first three games a year ago, before
ending up with 1,047 yards. He has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his
first four seasons since the Titans drafted him in the first round back in
The former East Carolina star said the Titans' offense hasn't had a chance to
stay on the field and jell. Johnson feels that because he's the highest-paid
player on the team, all the criticism heads his way.
Perhaps Johnson is to blame for starting quarterback Jake Locker's struggles.
It's important for a quarterback, especially a first-year starter, to have a
safety blanket in a solid running game. Johnson hasn't been a conservator yet,
but there are plenty of games left.
Johnson is approaching a milestone in his career. He is 16 receiving yards shy
of becoming just the second player in franchise history to reach 5,000 rushing
yards and 1,500 receiving yards.
Johnson has 5,666 career rushing yards and 1,484 career receiving yards, and
will soon join Eddie George, who had a franchise-high 10,009 rushing yards and
2,144 receiving yards. Earl Campbell ran for 8,754 yards in his career.
The Titans' running game will have Javon Ringer back in the fold after an
infection in his arm kept him out of action. Ringer was drafted in the fifth
round in 2009 and ran for 185 yards in 12 games a year ago.
He touched on Tennessee's start to the season this week.
"There's no panic mode or anything right now," Ringer said. "Being 0-2 is not
a good thing, but (we're) definitely not panicking right now. The only thing
we can do is keep moving forward and just continue working on things in
practice that we need to show on the field. We've just got to continue to stay
on the field as an offense, moving the chains and having the big plays come."
Tennessee will face Detroit, Houston, Minnesota and Pittsburgh in the coming
weeks, and, hopefully, can put together a cohesive offensive attack. Trying to
hit the ground running would be ideal for both Johnson and the team.
The Sports Network