It's time to move on from Chris Johnson.
No, not like that. This isn't a post about that. That was last week. You can read about my thoughts on CJ here.
But what I mean is that it's time to shift our offensive focus away from him. It's time to rethink what the Titans are all about, and it's time to build upon a new foundation.
And as it turns out, Chris Johnson was right all along.
A week ago, Johnson gave an interview to Titans Insider that you can find here in which he said that the Titans "need somebody in this locker room to make plays and give us a spark."
Thinking back to when Johnson reportedly demanded "playmaker money" during his contract holdout last year, a lot of us became annoyed at his quote last week, disappointed that he wasn't taking responsibility and owning up to what we feel his role should be as the team's playmaker. His holdout + his lack of performance since has left us rubbed raw, and his comments that placed the yoke of the "playmaker" tag on the shoulders of a yet-to-rise teammate.
That teammate has now risen, and it's time for our offensive coaching staff to put that yoke fully on his shoulders. It's time to build our offense around tight end Jared Cook.
The Steelers game in itself was the encapsulation of this school of thought. I wrote last week that it was time to part ways with Chris Johnson, because he he wasn't contributing to the greater good of this offense's goals. With the weapons we have at our QBs' disposal, Johnson's role needs to be contributor, not playmaker. He did just that on Thursday night, with 91 yards on 19 carries (a 4.8 YPC). He got 1st Downs when we needed them, and he enhanced our drives. But he wasn't the sole focus.
Neither was Jared Cook, but after Thursday night, it's officially time to establish him as the centerpiece of our mantle. He had 4 catches (on 4 targets) for 54 yards, including the crucial crossing-route catch-and-run against James Harrison that put us in FG range and allowed Bironas to win the game.
With his physical tools, his reliability, and his proven (flashes of) success, Jared Cook should become the focus of the Titans' offense moving forward. With the success the Patriots and Saints have had while featuring Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, respectively, why not emulate that same formula (in what is cliche'd as a "copycat league" anyway) and see if teams can stop it? The Steelers have long been acclaimed as one of the best defenses in the league, but they couldn't stop him. The Bills shouldn't be able to, either. So why not exploit that?
Our WRs are a nice bunch to have, and have performed well even without Cook being the dominant receiver. But if we make our focal point Cook, who can beat LBs in coverage and will draw the aide of DBs, it will open up the field for Wright, Britt, and Washington even more. Once the defense puts in more DBs to help in coverage, at that point it's time to catch them offguard with a CJ run through a man-down line for 5 or 6 yards. But it all starts with establishing Cook.
It doesn't hurt matters that Cook is in a contract year, and no news has come out from the front office that there have been any negotiations at this point. That's worrisome. Cook is a great talent, and he's a caliber-character guy that we need in the locker room as well. His interview on Nashville radio (which you can hear here) was concerning last week when asked about his role in the offense. It gives you the feeling that all might not be well between employee and boss when it comes to Cook.
After our success Thursday night in a game that no one gave us the chance to win, and because of the formula that led to that success, maybe the coaching staff will open its eyes and realize that it's time for Cook to become the playmaker that CJ was talking about all along.