There isn’t going to be a change on the Titans’ depth chart at running back.
Even though Javon Ringer got more touches on Sunday and was in the backfield when the game was still somewhat in doubt in the fourth quarter, Chris Johnson remains the starter in Tennessee. Coach Mike Munchak said that the team is sticking with Johnson as starter for Sunday’s game against the Bengals because he believes he is the player who gives them the best chance to win.
That’s not particularly surprising, although the motives might be more complicated than that. Benching your tailback seven games after giving him a huge new contract is a touchy subject, even if Ringer looked better on Sunday. Ringer’s not a great back, but he’s attacking the line of scrimmage in a way that Johnson hasn’t this season.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean said that Johnson’s contract did come up during Munchak’s meeting with the media. The coach said that he feels people have outsized expectations for Johnson in the wake of his new deal. That might be true, but honesty demands mentioning that Johnson would be getting the same kind of criticism if he was making the league minimum. Johnson is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, showing little to no burst and making no tacklers miss when he has the ball. Running backs have been cut for less, so it isn’t like critics are missing some kind of brilliance in CJ’s game.
It’s worth mentioning that Munchak said after the game that the team would let the flow of the game determine which back gets more work. Unless there’s a big change in the next few weeks, that could make Johnson’s status as the starter nothing more than a cosmetic move.