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A Closer Look at Chris Johnson

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It is time to start debating the merits of the Chris Johnson pick and look at what he brings to the Titans.  Chris Johnson is really, really fast.  LenDale White is a good back, but he is never going to break a 60 yard run or take a screen pass, make a couple of people miss, and take it to the house.  Johnson can do just that.  My biggest problem with the Chris Henry pick last year was that he didn't produce in college.  40 times at the combine mean nothing if you cannot play when the lights are on.  Johnson can play.  Last season he carried the ball 236 times for 1,423 yards (6 ypc) and 17 touchdowns.  I know it was against mostly second tier talent, but those are dang good numbers.

The biggest thing that Johnson is going to bring to the Titans is his receiving ability out of the backfield.  Last season he caught 37 passes for 528 yards (14.3 ypc) and 6 touchdowns.  Mike Heimerdinger loves to use his running backs in the passing game.  Some have suggested that the Titans are going to make Johnson a receiver.  That isn't going to happen, but I think you will see him motioning out of the backfield and lining up as a receiver a lot.  The Titans will also have a screen game next season which they haven't really had since they have been here.  Instead of throwing stuff at the TV because the Titans are giving up a 20 yard gain on a screen on 3rd and 12; you will be jumping up and down for joy because it is Johnson who is gaining those yards for the Titans. Whether you like where he was picked or not, he is exactly the back that the Titans need to compliment The Round Mound.

Johnson can also return kicks.  One of the many problems with the Titans offense last season was their starting field position.  They pretty much never started on the positive side of the 20.  That will change next season.  Johnson has the speed and vision, which Henry obviously lacked, to be a dynamic kick returner.

In summary, Johnson is a playmaker.  Here is what his NFL.com prospect page says under the compares to paragraph:

DAVE MEGGETT-ex-New York Giants/New England...Some compare him to Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook, but even though the Eagles runner has fine speed, he lacks that explosive second gear Johnson possesses. With his injury woes behind them, Johnson finally came into his own as a senior, as he learned to vary his speed and showed much better patience waiting for blocks to develop. He is much stronger than his size indicates, but with his outstanding timed speed he is a versatile threat who is more than capable of handling kickoff duties. With his suddenness off the line of scrimmage and hand extension ability, he also can line wide in passing situations.
I don't think any of us will be upset with this pick if he turns out ot be Brian Westbrook with more burst.