Chris Johnson is a freak. The modern NFL has never seen a player at the running back position who plays at under 200 lbs., runs like the wind and can still carry the three-down load of a franchise back. Even the other 'smaller' RBs in the league (MJD, Sproles, Rice, etc.) are stout, round guys packed with muscle. Almost every other RB his size gets 10-15 touches. In fact, the only reason Johnson fell to us late the first round of the draft was because 31 other teams looked at him as a role player/change of pace back.
Little did they know...
Over his first three seasons Jeff Fisher did everything he could to run Chris Johnson into the ground. Chris Johnson amassed 925 carries, to go with 137 catches (which leads the whole team over that period, BTW). While it looked like a dangerous recipe on paper, it was the Jeff Fisher way: keep you best player on the field... even if he's so worn out he's not much better than the capable back-up on the sidelines.
Still, records were broken. Touchdowns were scored. Games were won. Swagger was jacked. And it was good.
Then CJ had two seasons where he 'struggled' when compared to the absurdly high bar he set for himself. However, the touches kept coming. There was a little bit of a reprieve last season when CJ logged a mere 262 carries, the lowest amount since his rookie campaign, but that's still a big chunk of the load. Too big, if you ask me.
Now, with a full offseason to implement his offense and a shiny new weapon at WR, Munchak and Palmer are making it clear that this will no longer be an offense predicated on force-feeding the ball to Chris Johnson, or any other RB. Johnson has said he wants to the ball 20-25 times a game, but Chris Palmer quickly threw cold water on that figure:
"That's 400 touches over the course of a season. He's certainly capable of that, but what does it mean for the team? Does it help us win?"
How novel. Jeff Fisher would have said that if CJ isn't getting 20-25 touches a game, then we aren't going to win. Of course we also heard all kinds of claims about what they were going to do differently every season that went out the door after week 1.
I have an unreasonable amount of faith that Palmer will successfully limit Johnson's touches, and I expect that the benefits will be massive. CJ will be fresher since he won't be uselessly bashing his head against a man-wall running horribly blocked crash/dive/stretch plays for no damned reason. Ideally, that'll also mean a whole lot less 2nd-and-10s. It'll also mean CJ can be better utilized in the passing game, where he's hopefully been making major improvements on now that he's finally in camp to work on it (and has QBs who can complete short passes).
The other added benefit is perhaps the biggest one, considering the massive contract CJ landed last year: it'll add years to Johnson' career. Being utilized in a smarter, more efficient way should help keep him healthy and quick, which is what we're going to need for several years to come.