Jeff Fisher always says the coaching staff likes to break up the season into quarters. Well, after one quarter, the Titans are 2-2 with some good, some bad and some ugly.
The ugly is very easy to point out, but very difficult to figure out. Paging Chris Johnson, anyone seen him? You know, last year’s 2,000 yard rusher and NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Oh, did I mention Pro Bowler and the running back who broke the NFL record for scrimmage yards in a season, with 2,509.
Things are bad enough that he felt the need to tweet this today on his Chris Johnson28 twitter account. “I wnt 2 let all my fantasy ppl & myfans kno not 2 worry ima have a gr8 oct its tkng a little time 2 adjust 2 the 8 n 9 inthe box.” #NOPRESSURE
Where to begin with what is wrong. If you talk to enough people, one thing is for certain: Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion on what’s going on with Johnson, and how to fix it.
-Let’s start with the obvious. CJ should have put circles on his jersey with numbers on the outside of those circles that read 20, 19, 18, 17. You get my drift here. He has turned himself into a target, a human dartboard. I guess his dartboard should be specialized with No. 28 on it.
You can’t make proclamations to go where no man has ever gone in this league, back-to-back 2,000 yard seasons with 2,500 yards rushing, and not expect repercussions. This is the NFL, the best of the best.
Yes, teams were targeting CJ all last season, especially in the second half, but when you give 31 defenses an entire off-season to prepare and scheme to stop you, it becomes incumbent upon Johnson and the Titans to readjust to the adjustment.
-Johnson , heading into week five, is now running behind the 29th-ranked passing team in the league. So far, there is no threat for opposing defenses to worry about anything other than the Titans running the football.
Vince Young attempted a season-high 28 passes on Sunday, against Denver, and the head coach acts like everyone should still be saying, “WOW”. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, was 35 of 50 on the day. No threat of the pass, equals no worries for the opposition.
-Some would suggest that Chris Johnson has been watching Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and Chad Ochocinco too much on “Dancing with the Stars.” There does seem to be a hesitation to hit the hole and make his cuts too early, a criticism that was levied in last year's 0-6 start as well. Javon Ringer certainly hasn't had any issues hitting the holes that are there. You do wonder, is CJ always trying to be the Albert Pujols or Jose Bautista of the NFL? A home run threat on every carry.
-No Len Dale White. Yeah, I said it. Smash is gone from Dash. I know he was everybody’s whipping boy or punch-line for the jokes, but there’s something to be said about having that complement or change of pace back. Now, there is no one to wear down the defense.
-Maybe it’s the work load. 358 carries last season and 94 thus far this season, something that has Johnson on pace for 376 carries this year.
-Fisher decided to let running backs coach Earnest Byner go after the 2009 season. Byner was a former 13-year veteran in the league, that played the position, and a guy who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.
Enter Kennedy Pola. He had a cup of coffee in Nashville and then loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Hills, that is, leaving the Titans to move Craig Johnson into the running backs role and to file a silly lawsuit over Pola's departure. Now you have a soft spoken quarterbacks coach, playing out the role of running back coach.
-The offensive line. Exit 16-year veteran center Kevin Mawae, enter Eugene Amano. Amano is not a pup, but certainly doesn’t have the experience to bark out orders and formations at the line, like Mawae. Plus he switched positions, moving from guard to center.
Leroy Harris moves in as the starting left guard, at least early on, there doesn’t seem to be the same cohesiveness with the offensive line that there was a year ago. This is a line that most thought, including myself, was going to be one of the best in the league this year.
Also on a side note, no Alge Crumpler. The Titans love Craig Stevens, for good reason, but once again experience goes a long way in this league. Stevens is nowhere in that department compared to Crumpler, who was like an extra tackle on the field as he weighed nearly 300 pounds.
-Finally, a 3-4 defense has certainly been a thorn in CJ’s side. He’s faced two this season already, Denver and Pittsburgh. Against the Broncos he had 19 carries for 53 yards, and was 16 for 34-yards against the Steelers.
Those teams completely took the edges away from Johnson and forced him inside, where he’s done a lot of the dancing while getting bottled up. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said his team blitzed their linebackers on nearly every play, selling out to stop CJ and the Titans' running game. Guess what? It worked.
So who is next on the schedule? Yet another 3-4 defense with the Dallas Cowboys.
I’m not sure what the right answer is for the woes of Chris Johnson. Maybe it’s a combination of all the above, which was my favorite answer on a test in school. One thing is for sure no matter what, they better figure it out or their season will end in Indianapolis, the day after New Year's.