Fantasy: Warning signs for CJ2K

| March 13, 2011

Tennessee running back Chris Johnson is making noise about joining the USA track team if the lockout drags on too long.

If he does, he’ll get about the same level of blocking he got in 2010.

The Titans’ pitiful run blocking – they ranked last in the league (-95.5) in Pro Football Focus’ exclusive ratings – is just one of many warning signs for CJ2K heading into the 2011 season.

Johnson has amassed 1,062 touches in his first three seasons, an almost unheard-of workload. At what point will he break down, or slow down?

He averaged a pedestrian 4.3 yards per carry in 2010, after averaging 5.6 and 4.9 his first two years.  That tied him for 20th last season. Similarly, Johnson averaged 2.8 yards after contact per attempt, which tied for 19th.

Johnson did break or elude 44 tackles, fourth-most in the league.  He still has electric speed and moves.

Another concern is Tennessee’s quarterback situation. The Titans are expected to release Vince Young as soon as the lockout ends, leaving only Rusty Smith (20 of 40, 200 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INTs last season). Tennessee could grab a quarterback with the eighth overall pick, or in the second round. But draft picks cannot negotiate with their teams until the lockout ends.

Which means, no workouts with new offensive coordinator and quarterback guru Chris Palmer. No chance to get a head start on learning the playbook.

Whoever starts at quarterback isn’t likely to pose much of a threat right away. Opponents will gang up to stop the run.

Remember Smith’s start at Houston on Nov. 28? Johnson carried seven times for five yards. Five! And caught two passes for two yards.  It was easily Johnson’s worst game as a pro.

Johnson also must contend with the presence of Javon Ringer (4.7 yards per carry), who is bound for a bigger role.

In early Draftmaster PPR leagues, Johnson has been, on average, the fourth running back off the board behind Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. I’d move up Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy ahead of Johnson too, at least until the QB situation is clarified.

If Tennessee surprises by signing a legitimate free agent quarterback and/or making significant upgrades on the offensive line, Johnson would shoot back up my draft board.

Hopefully, new coach Mike Munchak and his buddy Bruce Matthews, the new offensive line coach, can restore the Titans’ ability to pound opponents. Until we see proof, however, CJ2K gets a slight downgrade.

Comments are closed.