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"Advanced Running Back Maneuvers": Whatchu Know 'Bout CJ2K, Haters?

I don't care whose fault it is, just fix it now. The debate rages on. Chris Johnson? Run blocking? Ahmard Hall? Yes, all of them are the right answer to the unanswerable question of who broke the running game, and as unfair as it may seem to some of those who may be reading, I think the majority opinion believes that the blame should fall significantly on the 50 million dollar man, Chris Johnson.

It's not hard to see that running behind a sometimes clueless offensive line is taking its toll on CJ this year. His decisiveness is at an all time low, even when there are holes. I can see what he's trying to do; he's waiting for a crease to develop so that he can exploit it by accelerating through at about a million miles an hour. Problem is, he's waiting a lot longer than he should be and when he finally hits the hole, it's not with a lot of conviction. Sometimes it's his fault, sometimes it's not. Playing behind a group of players who are much better at going backwards than they are at going forwards is a big deal, and I think it may be affecting his ability to just take what the defense gives him because roughly seven times out of ten, the defense will give him nothing, but the blame will be shouldered because of the contract that he held out of camp for.

The resulting numbers aren't pretty. Johnson ranks tenth overall in the NFL in carries this year with 83. Out of all of the players in the top ten, he has the lowest yards per carry by nearly a yard and a half. What's really distressing for me personally is that while I've harped on Shonn Greene of the Jets for being a total bum this year, even he has a measly three tenths of a yard on CJ at this point. For even more perspective, out of the top 32 in rushing attempts this year, CJ has the lowest YPC average. Actually, scratch that, he's tied with Rashard Mendenhall. Terrific. For other backs, it might not mean much if your longest run of the year is 25 yards. For CJ, it tells the whole story. His empire is built on exploding untouched through the hole for 80 yards and a cloud of dust. If he can't break a run of more than 25 yards off at this point in the season when his game is centered around doing just that, there's something fundamentally wrong with the way he's playing this year. 

As much as I have hope that a week off will help him and Ahmard Hall back on the same page with the offensive line, I still don't know if he'll be fully back on track this year. Maybe that's just the reality of what missing training camp can do to a great player. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine that a talent like CJ just "disappears" out of nowhere. What he needs right now is for the offensive line to execute well for a full game. Not even for a particularly large amount of time, two or three seconds every play of doing their jobs perfectly should do just fine, by then he'll be in the secondary. The problem with this is that a superstar running back getting paid a ridiculous amount of money shouldn't need that luxury to be great. Tough, but it's the reality of the situation. 

Let me make something very clear: I am totally still on the CJ gravy train. If there's anyone in the league who can change a season with just one carry, it's him. I know he won't last forever, but there's just no way that a player who made such an impact on the game can just be eliminated from the equation almost instantly. Right now what we have is a player who missed a ton of time in the offseason and is paying for it with regular season ineffectiveness. Basically, he's a good player who's playing poorly. Guess he's human after all.