Chris Johnson’s attitude came into question last season, and fairly so.
He showed a lot of give-up. Nobody ever admitted it, but all you had to do was watch. On some plays, he missed holes. Worse, on others, he curled up in the fetal position and went down far too easily.
Nate Dunlevy at Bleacher Report has pointed out that for all the talk of how if Peyton Manning came to Tennessee, he would be joining a team with a good run game, the Titans were dead last in rushing last season.
So the question for the Titans and for Manning is this: Would playing with a four-time MVP quarterback set up Johnson to rebound, or set up a conflict?
Maybe I am naïve, but my gut says different than Dunlevy’s. It’s says that a proud player who faced a degree of failure last season after getting a big contract will have a productive offseason, that the front office that’s already signed Steve Hutchinson could give Johnson even more help, that the coaches will be able to spell out exactly what was going wrong on botched plays last season, and that Johnson will rebound.
Tennessee will run better next season. (It can’t run worse). I could see the Titans being at least in the middle of the pack.
Johnson was fired up when a washed up Randy Moss arrived in Tennessee. He’ll be more so if Manning arrives. And Manning will have far more of a positive effect.
My concerns with Johnson in a pairing with Manning are these: He’s not a great outlet for dump-off passes and screens, and he’s not the best in pass protection.
Still, it’s important to note the one pass-protection play people always look to in conversations about Johnson needs context.
Johnson failed to slow anyone down, and Vince Young got body slammed by Pittsburgh’s James Harrison. But Johnson and the rest of the blockers were trying to execute a jumbled blocking scheme, called for by Young, that simply didn’t exist in the Titans’ playbook.