Chris Johnson is a philosopher of sorts. When asked about his early struggles that are a continuation of his 2011 season of woe, Johnson tried to do something he’s done very little of on the field. Evade, dodge, and avoid.

He was successful only momentarily, until he essentially but politely said what we all know to be true. His offensive line sucks.

How can such extreme suck be measured? There’s one particularly damning, frightening number which supports Johnson’s hypothesis that he’s not spending too much time dancing and darting in the backfield while being indecisive and eventually going down. That’s because he has no time to make any decision whatsoever, let alone linger on that decision. He’s getting hit in the backfield on nearly every play.

In what’s becoming a regular Friday afternoon exercise because we thoroughly enjoy depressing the hell out of you while you attempt to escape workplace obligations during the final hours of the week, let’s explore Johnson again, but this time introduce another quite staggering number within the context of his quotes from yesterday.

Johnson has only 21 rushing yards on 19 carries through two games for an average of 1.1 yards per carry. You’re aware of that, and it’s the reason why there’s a hole in your wall where the CJ1.1k poster was not too long ago. It’s also at least partly why you started crying while┬áinexplicably eating a stick of butter yesterday when Johnson spoke about his problems, and had this to say:

“I’m not the guy to sit here and be the guy that points fingers,” Johnson said. “It’s a situation where I’m only going to be as good as my line is going to be, so we have to work together and get better together.

“I don’t think I missed no big plays or anything like that. It’s just a situation where we really haven’t had the opportunity to stay on the field and really get into the running game.”

Maybe there’s been a few situations among Johnson’s 19 carries when he could have made more of an effort to just turn and burn, and then maybe he’d have something closer to an only moderately awful three yards per carry. Progress?

But here’s what I know for sure: when you’re consistently hit behind the line of scrimmage in the NFL — or really, any professional football league anywhere that’s ever existed — gaining positive yardage is difficult. This is where a number from Johnson’s first two games emerges that’s scary, and downright haunting.

In a stat dug up by ESPN Stats and Information and mentioned Thursday by Matthew Berry on his daily fantasy podcast, Johnson has more yards after contact than he does before contact. Again, overall he has 21 yards, but after contact he’s rushed for 23 yards. Wait, what?

Yep, he has more yards after contact than he does total positive yards because he’s facing initial contact in the backfield so often. In fairness, some of that could still be on Johnson, and his inability to just choose a damn hole. But what if there is no hole, ever? A circumstance in which a runner’s yards per carry after contact (1.2) is more than his overall yards per carry (1.1) says this is a problem which goes far beyond his control.

This is the part where I look over the Titans’ remaining schedule, and tell you to buy low on Johnson because he might start to do something that resembles average NFL running back production. And sure, the only truly threatening run defenses on Tennessee’s sked are two dates with the Texans, and one with the Steelers. Beyond that the other 11 games are easy to average and maybe a bit below average matchups, so go for it and seize the day and buy low, because right now the price for Johnson is beyond low. He’s nearly free.

Which brings me to the far more important point for Johnson owners on the other end who are obstructing the buy low vultures. I realize it’s tempting to jettison a running back who still carries some name value, and get someone — anyone, anyone at all — in return who can be productive and contribute. I feel your pain, as I’m also a Johnson owner in one of my leagues. There’s a support group and we meet on Tuesdays. Punch and pie.

But what’s your motivation to trade a player who, at the moment, has essentially zero value? If you’re going to cave to your nerves and sell a player who’s struggling, you do it when you’ve projected that his tumble is starting, or he’s even in the middle of his descent. You don’t make that move when his value has bottomed out, especially not when you spent a first-round pick on Johnson, or at best a second rounder.

It’s simple economics. You’re not recouping even a fraction of that investment, and instead you’d be allowing another owner to benefit from a potential turnaround after paying an extremely minimal price.

Bench him if you can, and keep him there to minimize your frustration until CJ shows some life. Unless you can take advantage of an uncommonly good trade offer or an overzealous manager, that’s the only sensible action right now.

Comments (1)

  1. That one of biggest cop outs blaming it on his line! Sometimes it doesnt matter if you got best line in football if you dont hit hole hard when its there & quit juking & jiving & dancing around & letting hole breakdown or let players catch back up from behind! I think TN. Needs to try & see what they can get out of him with a trade! Dont know if he injured himself in his 2,000yd. Season because next season he sits out wanting to be paid as an elite RB in the league! Every season since has been getting worst & worst! Now in 2012 through 5 games hes around 200yds for season or something pathetic! Definitely not numbers an elite RB would have! He cant break long runs anymore & if its goal line situation he either not strong enough or just big enough because they usually put the big back in for goalline short yardage plays! So if he not going to break big ones we have as good a chance leaving one the big backs in at least he might break some tackles & get 15-20 yds. Cause Johnson not. Even having probably his best game of season tonight against Steelers he’s got so bad at dancing around the announcers are even getting frustrated! I wouldnt have thought as bad about his effort if he hadnt sat out basically hole preseason few yrs ago. SO TITANS IF YOU READ THIS TRADE HIM! GET SOMEONE WHO WILL HIT HOLE! I guess C.J. realized that 2000 yd season a fluke so i better get paid! Only NFL player to ever tick me off more was Albert Haynesworthe & how he played like a man among boys during his final year under contract then Redskins pay him over $100million contract & he doesnt wanna play in the Redskins defense so im going to be lazy & not pass a physical during training camp so i dont have to work hard like my team mates! Shows how good teammates they both are! Haynesworthe doesnt try hard & C.J. not only doesnt try hard by hitting hole he punks out with a sissy excuse & throw my linemen jnder bus! Maybe he should look in mirror! Cause when i played when we had RB or QB we didnt like for reasons like throwing teammates under bus we just wouldnt try hard & when they got hit hard it was our way of throwing them under bus! Sorry if ticked people off but when i saw this story headline it made my blood boil!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *