Commentary by David Climer, The Tennessean
Entering the Titans' second preseason game tonight, Chris Johnson already is in midseason form.
Unfortunately, it's midseason 2011, not midseason 2009.
Against Seattle on Saturday, Johnson had five carries for 8 yards and ran with no sense of urgency. He didn't press the hole. He didn't accelerate in traffic. He didn't make anybody miss.
In short, he didn't look anything like the CJ2K of '09.
Johnson shrugged it off as no big deal, suggesting the preseason opener was little more than a glorified scrimmage where the Titans didn't install a complete game plan.
"It's a thing you go through," he said. "... You're going out there like basically another scrimmage."
On his Twitter feed, Johnson posted: Lol preseason.
I'm glad someone is laughing out loud.
Sometimes you wonder if Johnson is taking this as seriously as he should. He raised eyebrows last week when he claimed he could beat Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt in the 40-yard dash, which is the benchmark for timing football players. Call me a skeptic.
In London, it took Bolt 9.63 seconds to run 100 meters. Based on last season's stats, it would take Johnson the better part of two games to run 100 meters.
It would be easier to discount the performance at Seattle if Johnson were not coming off the worst of his four NFL seasons. He managed 1,047 rushing yards in 2011, which comes down to about 65½ yards per game. There were seven games where he averaged under 3.0 yards per carry and he was below 2.0 three times.
All that came after he signed a blockbuster six-year, $56 million contract that now looks like a bad investment.
OK, it's early. As for the preseason opener, Coach Mike Munchak noted that miscommunication left a Seahawks defender unblocked on Johnson's first run, resulting in a 3-yard loss. OK. That still means his next four attempts produced 11 yards or 2.75 yards per carry - down from the 4.0 he averaged last season, the lowest of his career.
"It's hard to evaluate and judge people on five snaps," Munchak said.
Munchak said the plan is to double Johnson's carries tonight. That's a step in the right direction. Previously, the Titans have been reluctant to get Johnson extensive work in the preseason, choosing to save his legs for the regular season. With a running game that needs upgrading, they don't have that luxury this year.
Since his rookie season, the most carries Johnson has gotten in a preseason game was eight. He didn't touch the ball during preseason games last year because of his contract holdout. The rust was obvious.
Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer acknowledged the blocking wasn't great against Seattle due to a number of factors. But ineffective blocking can't be blamed for two passes that Johnson dropped.
How can a team that wants to incorporate the screen game into its offense do so if the running back is trying to catch the ball wearing oven mitts?
Johnson acknowledged a lack of concentration but said it was nothing to worry about.
"I've never really had a problem catching the ball," he said.
No problems. No worries.
Sounds like 2011 all over again.