Through seven games of the 2013 season, Titans running back Chris Johnson wasn’t Chris Johnson. With 336 total yards, he was just a guy who had been paid the guaranteed money on his current deal and was destined to be dumped by a team due to pay him $8 million in 2014.
On Sunday, Chris Johnson became Chris Johnson again, with 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a meaningful win against long-time Titans/Oilers coach Jeff Fisher in the first game since the only owner in franchise history passed away.
As pointed out by John Glennon of the Tennessean, the performance comes after Johnson had registered a total of 110 yards in the prior four games combined, averaging 2.4 yards per carry.
But even in the glow of a CJ2K-style performance, it’s hard to imagine justifying another $8 million in 2014 for a running back who has only shown periodic flashes of his past greatness. Especially when Rams rookie Zac Stacy racked up 127 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the same game.
Stacy, a fifth-round pick from Vanderbilt whom the Titans were eyeballing as a late-round addition, proves yet again that good running backs can be found throughout the draft (and, in the case of former University of Tennessee running back Arian Foster, after it). As the league swings more and more toward the pass, why invest a first-round pick and then after only three seasons a gigantic contract?
It’s a question every team needs to ask itself — especially those who are laboring under huge contracts given to big-name running backs.