In general, any quarterback's best friend is a good running game.
But with a backup quarterback making his first start of the season, that could be especially true for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tennessee Titans this Sunday when they face the Kansas City Chiefs.
That means it would be a great time for Chris Johnson and the running game to really get going.
Other than last week, when he had just 21 yards on 15 carries against the New York Jets, Johnson's numbers haven't been bad, but they haven't exactly been what the Titans had hoped for when they revamped the offensive line and declared themselves a run-based team in the off-season.
CJ2K has 277 yards through four games, good for 13th in the NFL and fourth in the AFC.
Johnson, who usually has talked a lot about his numbers and production, says the Titans' success is more important than his own numbers.
“I'm not really worried about the spotlight. I'm just trying to go out there and get a victory,” Johnson said. “I'm working every game to get better and better every week. It's going to come, but I'm not going to do nothing really out of the ordinary to try and make it happen. I'm just going to let it come to me.”
The Chiefs, despite being 4-0 and their defense being a big part of their success, have nonetheless yielded 117.5 yards per game thus far, ranking 24th in that category in the NFL.
So running the football to make things easier for Fitzpatrick is something Johnson and the Titans definitely want to accomplish.
“The last time he really played (before last week) was the preseason. But it's always good to have a good running game and make it easier on him,” Johnson said.
Coach Mike Munchak said that would be the focus even if Jake Locker wasn't out with a hip injury.
“Generally, it would, there’s no doubt, but if Jake was the guy, we’d still be saying that. We need to run the football well this weekend,” Munchak said.. “It’s going to be a challenge to do on the offensive side of the ball because this defense is playing so well right now; they have a lot of confidence. I think that’ll be the key to how well Ryan does early.
“If we don’t put him in a lot of tough situations, if it’s not a lot of third-and-long, and things like that where we’re putting it all on his shoulders to make plays, he’ll (be fine). He’ll have some of those, and he’ll have to rise up and make some plays for us which we know he is capable of doing. Guys have made great catches, too. There’s going to be some balls that may not be perfectly thrown that guys have to go up and make the catch. Hopefully in the run game we can block well and CJ (Chris Johnson) makes some guys miss and we get some big plays in the run game.”
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said teams are still loading the box to stop Johnson and the run game, but that the Titans still have to perform better in order to make the run game click.
“I think we all can do a better job. I think CJ can do a better job making guys miss. I think we can cover guys up better up front. I think I can do a better job of calling plays. I think our receivers can block better,” Loggains said. “The difference between offense and defense is to get four yards rushing on first down, 11 guys have to do their job. On defense, one guy has to make a play. That's the difference and if those guys continue to jell up front, those three inside guys, that's gonna lead to more plays for CJ. And CJ is a talented guy, and he should make people miss. That's what we expect from him, and that's what he expects from himself.”
Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua (shoulder) and tackle David Stewart (calf) both missed a second day of practice, but the Titans are hopeful that both can go on Friday and play Sunday.
Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson missed another day after re-injuring his hamstring against the Jets.
Quarterback Jake Locker (hip) is out, and running back Shonn Greene (knee) and defensive tackle Sammie Hill (ankle) were out of practice and likely won't play Sunday.