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Examining Chris Johnson's bad run rate

10/1/2010

It’s been a popular discussion in the Tennessee Titans' press room the past couple weeks. How often is Chris Johnson running for 2 yards or less and how does it compare to what’s happening around the league?

Bob McClellan, who writes a blog that often touches on the Titans, had been tracking Johnson's rate and poking around on it.

So I took it to James Barger of ESPN Stats & Information, who provided me with the information you see to the right.

I’m surprised that almost half the rushing attempts in the league gain 2 yards or less. And Johnson’s rate of 53.3 percent is quite a drop off when compared to his rate last year (44.7).

What’s up?

Well the Steelers’ defense ended his 12-game streak of rushing for 100 or more yards. Defenses are certainly wary of Johnson now more than ever. The Titans’ interior offensive line hasn’t been great as it adjusts to Eugene Amano at center and Leroy Harris at left guard. And maybe Johnson’s been a bit less decisive or too patient.

I asked Johnson and left tackle Michael Roos about it.

“I don’t really look into things like that,” Johnson said. “…That’s what type of back I am. If you’re playing against eight, nine in the box, there are going to be a lot of runs where you don’t get many yards because there are so many people up in the box. Then, of course, hopefully something will break loose.”

“Even more so nobody wants to be the team to let him breakout and let him be the guy to have 100-, 200-yard games,” Roos said. “We’re getting eight, nine, sometimes even 10 guys in the box so it’s bound to happen more often. We are making sure to make sure we stay on our blocks, all he needs is that one crease and he’ll break one. In essence you’re kind of waiting it out, but it’s any play at any point.”

It’s definitely something to keep an eye on. But if Johnson hits home runs like his 76-yard touchdown against Oakland and extra base hits like his 42-yard run against the Giants, I’m OK with swallowing a share of 2s, 1s , no gains and losses.

Jeff Fisher said basically the same thing and he’s not concerned.

“There’s been no drop off in his skill set and it’s still early in the season,” he said. “Nobody wants a negative play, but negative plays are part of games. They happen. He also has the reputation for making many positive plays.”