Ugly loss. Among other underwhelming players was Chris Johnson. Long story short, he was totally shut down, even if he was on a schedule that was designed to ease him into the year with fewer touches. Even with a lengthy absence, this isn't something I saw coming. I had penciled him in for a big game, win or lose. We can speculate all we want about what his problem was today, but I like to think it's a combination of things.
First off, all of the progress we saw on the interior line this preseason is out the window. They looked atrocious today. Johnson's problem wasn't dancing around in the backfield too much and missing the hole, he just wasn't getting any push up front to work with. In short, there were no holes. The Jags have a strong front seven. It's not great, it's not unbeatable, but it's strong. Even so, they're small potatoes compared to some of the teams that the linemen will have to face this year. Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody are going to eat these guys alive next week and end CJ's career if something doesn't change fast. I don't think it will. It seems like they're just not physically strong enough to handle arguably the strongest tandem of inside linemen in the NFL. David Stewart also didn't play like he's supposed to. Cory Redding isn't going to physically beat on him, but Big Country just didn't have it today. He's gonna need every bit of it next week. So basically everybody up front needs to get their stuff together or this team ain't going anywhere. CJ's can't shoulder all of the blame for his bad day.
Second, the Titans were dealing with some very vanilla play calling. We're all a little bit sick of this "Titans up the gut every play" meme, and we got a little bit of progress in that department, and when the line isn't blocking, I guess it's a little tough to call anything fancy, but what we saw today was very Fisher-esque. So many three and outs, so little efficiency. I haven't really opened myself to the possibility of Munchak becoming Fisher 2.0, but now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised at all. It never occurred to me that someone brought in to change the culture of an organization would be stupid enough to not learn from the mistakes of his predecessor, but hey, he's part of the coaching tree, it's not that much of a stretch. Something that I did like were the few screens thrown to CJ. Just keep feeding him the ball in space and something's going to happen.
Finally, maybe I've underestimated the impact that missing training camp has had on our star player. In a discussion today, I began to realize that because he's so far behind on the new playbook that he might not even be the team's best offensive weapon anymore, especially with Kenny Britt picking up right where he left off dominating the opposition. This is the one problem that can be fixed quickly. A couple of good weeks of practice and getting back into the routine will be great for him.
So we've identified what went wrong for CJ, what about the rest of the team? Well, even though not everyone had a terrible day, there were far too many "aw jeez, not this again" moments today. Chris Hope wasn't tackling (though, neither was anyone else), Barrett Ruud was being dragged, and, as we touched on before, the offensive line got destroyed. Essentially, the Titans messed up everything they could've messed up and still lost by two. Something tells me that's due to the fact that the Jaguars are a relatively terrible football team. Had this been against a competent squad like Baltimore or New Orleans, the score would've been much worse. My confidence that these problems, and a whole host of others, can be fixed varies by the hour. There's a chance that changes will be made this year and that the coaching staff will start to hold players accountable for their mistakes. The question is how soon. The answer to that question will decide whether this season mirrors last year's or whether progress is made.