Who Is Our Third Down Back?

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 02: Running back Jamie Harper #23 of the Tennessee Titans runs by defenders T.J. Ward #43 and Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Even with all of the money the Titans have invested into Chris Johnson over the next few seasons, I think that it may be time for them to move to the more logical "stable" approach, meaning it's time to start giving the backups significantly more action. Commonly known fact: Chris Johnson and his millions of dollars will be receiving the majority of the carries. While neither Javon Ringer nor Jamie Harper have proven much of anything at the NFL level, I think it's time they started getting some looks if we are to protect our multi-million dollar man. It's simple logic, a guy like him relies on speed, it's undeniably advantageous to keep him fresh for as much of the game as possible. This means utilizing his backups. Question is, which player are we to use in what situation?

One thing we can all agree on is that Chris Johnson is a lot of things: dynamic open space runner, quicker to change directions than a laser pointer in a carnival house of mirrors, kind of arrogant in the approachable sense of the word, plenty of hype words to get excited about, but pass blocker is not one of them. He gives it a go every once in awhile and sometimes makes a really cool play where he flips Glover Quinn or whoever that schmuck was, but he's hardly Frank Gore back there. Enter Javon Ringer. I remember when he went down last year, the first thought into my head was "well, let's hope Harper can pass block", because that's what Ringer does. He was doing a great job keeping blitzers off of Hasselbeck all year. Overall, Ringer seems to have an ideal third down back skill set. In college, aside from being an outstanding all around running back at Michigan State, he was known as an underrated blocker and had a reputation for being a terrific receiver out of the backfield as well. This is evidenced by a robust 7.5 YPC during his time as a Spartan.

While Ringer has solid blocking and receiving skills, Jamie Harper is just a gamer. Physically, he's everything you want and more, and I don't think he's one of those guys who just shows up to play in random, isolated workouts only to hit the wall in the arena. Just watch his college highlight tapes, there were plays where he looked like a man among boys out there. If he could ever put it all together, he could be a real force on short yardage situations, but this isn't the role we're talking about, so more on that later. Maybe a little surprising is just how good of a receiver Harper is. It's weird how he's built like a Mack truck but his skill set may shoehorn him into a role similar to Ringer's on third down. I think if he improves his pass blocking, he could steal that job.

Right now, I like either just fine, but if Harper is to grow into the player we want him to be and they're both oing to basically give you the same thing, I'd like to see him get a majority of the reps. Protecting our quarterback is an asset, but the NFL's best pass pro unit is probably about to start working out at Baptist Sports Park right now, I don't know if Ringer is that much better than Harper that it justifies taking off the bigger target. That being said, Ringer isn't exactly a liability and is a much more proven target. I think this decision all comes down to what Ringer shows he can do with the ball in space on checkdowns. If he succeeds at that, he will instantly be more valuable than Haper on obvious passing situation. There are definitely two sides to this coin, it'll be interesting to see who earns this spot.

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