I know the majority of MCM users feel a certain way about Chris Johnson and what his future (or lack thereof) should be with this team, but bare with me as I explain why we should be patient with the man that once was our only source of hope.....
Over the past month or so there has been a lot of negativity by MCM users in regard to the running back that once made us foam at the mouth as he jetted 80+ yards more times in one season than any other back has had in a career. Now, while most of the criticism CJ has received seems justifiable, I am here to appeal to the hearts of those who might be able to look past the abysmal start of the Titans this season, and realize that CJ is not the problem. I would like to break this article up into three sections and explain how they have affected our views on CJ.
1. Expectations: There is no doubt in my mind that CJ is the same RB that he was in 2009 when he ran for 2006 yards. That being said, let me explain exactly what I mean. His style has not changed. CJ is an elusive back that needs space to run in. He uses his speed in open space to make defenders miss. In his record setting season he was especially good at this for numerous reasons: He rarely ever got hit before or 5 yards beyond the LOS, defending teams had no idea what angles to take in order to catch him, we had a mobile QB who they had to account for as well. All 3 of these factors have changed. The first two I listed are obvious and I will hit on them later in this post. I'm sure many will argue about the "mobile QB' change that I mentioned. While Locker is a very mobile QB, he is Vince Young. Locker has been taught to look for the throw first and run second. Whereas, VY had a flipped mindset. Teams do not respect Lockers running capability because he is not as prone to run at this level. This post isn't about Locker, so back to CJ. I believe that the 2009 season where every variable seemed to click and we watched history unfold right before our eyes has caused our expectation of CJ to be highly unreasonable.
2. Offensive Line & Run Blocking Ability: Since the 2009-2010 season where CJ came on to the scene only 2 starting offensive linemen remain on the starting roster for this season (Stewart & Roos). As if it wasn't obvious already, the worst part of the line has been the interior. Take a look at how bad we are compared to the old days. I could go on and on about how the line has underperformed. but that video is proof enough.
3. Coaching: At the end of the Fisher era, I was a huge Munchak guy. I still am. However, I am not a big Chris Palmer fan. During CJ's best years with this team we ran zone plays better than anyone else. For some odd reason we have gone away from zone runs and are trying to transition into a power running scheme that goes through the interior of the line. Palmer is a great O-coordinator when it comes to setting up a QB for success (See Locker and Hasselbeck of 2011). However, he has not a darn clue what he is doing when it comes to the run game. The halfback toss has been lost in the NFL for quite a few years now because the speed of the game has caught up to it; Palmer has run this play at least 5 times I can remember-each for negative yards. Either Munch needs to bring in a new coordinator, or he needs to sit down and draw up running plays for Palmer that he knows as a HOF linemen will work.
There are much more variables I could hit on that are effecting CJ in the running game, but just consider these few. Go ahead and comment and tell me how wrong I am or how indecisive CJ has been running the ball or whatever other excuse you want to make. But facts are facts and CJ has been the only constant on this team over the past 4 years.