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Chris Johnson finally gets back to being Chris Johnson

Johnson Getty Images

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.

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15 Responses to “Chris Johnson finally gets back to being Chris Johnson”
  1. skins2357 says: Nov 4, 2013 9:32 AM

    RB is a position that relies on other guys. If a RB does not have a hole, they are not going to get any yards. Wr’s need to run routes and catch the ball, QBs need to read a defense and make a throw, OL need to block the guy in front of them. A RB needs to hit the hole created for them hard and not fumble.

    If theres a hole there, then Joe Schmo will get some yeards. Sure the elite backs may break more, or get more YAC….but in todays NFL, running backs can be found all over the draft. See Alfred Morris from 2012, Zach Stacey this year.

    I think the days of drafting RBs with a top 20 pick are over. There are just too many other skill positions that the actual player has to do be special, and not rely on others.

  2. smokingconch says: Nov 4, 2013 9:38 AM

    If great running backs are so easy to find, then why doesn’t every team have them?

    You can make the same argument for every position on the field. Why invest a first round pick in QB when Brady, Foles, Keenum, Lewis, and Russel Wilson are playing so well without a huge contract?

  3. mlenenski says: Nov 4, 2013 9:44 AM

    GM’s need to learn to draft running backs….and trade them before they need big paydays.

    Pity the team that trades for a veteran running back, any GM that does that has got to be nuts, or work for the Falcons.

  4. southpaw2k says: Nov 4, 2013 9:50 AM

    I have a feeling the Ravens will be facing a similar dilemma with Ray Rice come March as well. He’s due to make a whopping $8.75 million next year, and unless some kind of miracle happens down the stretch of the season, I can’t see the Ravens justifying paying him that much next year.

  5. lbroberts123 says: Nov 4, 2013 10:09 AM

    If Johnson isn’t back with the Titans, he could fill a Reggie bush type role for another team. More pass catching draw plays. I’m not sure if he would be open to that kind of role, though.

  6. roderickmelvinjohnson says: Nov 4, 2013 10:26 AM

    Today’s nfl can be built in three ways

    1 Strong line play on both sides of the ball with a game manager at qb (Chiefs)

    2 strike it big with a cheap, yet budding superstar qb, invest like Seattle in a monster defense for a couple of years to make a super bowl run.

    3. Sell the farm to get a hall of fame qb and convince veterans to take less money for a super bowl run (Broncos)

  7. rascalmanny says: Nov 4, 2013 11:28 AM

    CJ does good when he wants to….

    When he wants to get paid….

    or when there’s another RB for the Titans to go to.

    Thanks for coming back Greene….stay healthy.

  8. pcoisma says: Nov 4, 2013 11:42 AM

    The NFL needs a “NFL Europe” type of farm system to develop players. The league SEEMS so watered down now because as a coach/GM you are not given the time to develop talent before you are replaced(EX: KC Chiefs).

  9. titaniksigh says: Nov 4, 2013 11:53 AM

    why he isn’t being used more as a receiver is beyond me. he’s already broken 2 for TDs this year. he’s still fast. he still has moves. the titans need to use him more effectively. the recent switch at center has helped the run game as well.

  10. mack2x says: Nov 4, 2013 1:09 PM

    About time

  11. hitking60 says: Nov 4, 2013 1:20 PM

    CJ gets to play the Jags twice, who have the worst run D in football. Who gets to play the Colts twice, who are nearly as bad. And he’ll get to play the Texans in the last game of the season. They will have mailed it in and he’s already had a good game against them. He’ll end up with about 1300-1400yds. He’s get about 4.5 a pop. And he’ll have enough long runs sprinkled in to justify him still getting “playmaker” money. In the offseason. The Titans will justify paying him the 8m by having cap space and blaming the slow start on the O-Line taking time to jell. Its the same thing every year. CJ is fine and the least of the Titans’ worries.

  12. hitking60 says: Nov 4, 2013 1:26 PM

    @titaniksign: CJ can’t catch. He’s fine in the screen and check down game. But he can’t catch the ball consistantly if he doesn’t see it leaving the QB’s hand. I’m with you on using him more effectively though. What I don’t understand is why they don’t use him in the kick return game, especially with Raynond gone. CJ was an All-American kick returner in college. The number of kicks run back nowadays are minimal. And that’s an easy way to get him in the open field, against backups at that. I’d think he’d be good for one or two TDs a year as a kick returner.

  13. titanmanic says: Nov 4, 2013 10:07 PM

    Cj is actually a pretty good pass catching back, he had over 500 yards when he rushed for 2k

  14. dodohead418 says: Nov 5, 2013 10:58 AM

    I have no clue why we don’t throw more screens to CJ/Kendall Wright.

  15. whealy86 says: Nov 7, 2013 6:38 PM

    He’s going to have a huge second half of the year, bring the Titans to almost make the playoffs but will miss it by .5 of a game or a tie breaker. Then the Titans will have a mid round pick like usual and will keep johnson yet another year and then the wheel goes round and round.

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