NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Johnson was a big threat as a pass catcher when he set an all-time record for all-purpose yardage in 2009.
He caught 50 passes for that year for 503 yards two touchdowns.
He was big again in 2011 with 57 catches for 418 yards.
But last season there were stretches where I felt like he was almost disinterested in being a pass-catcher. At the very least he regressed and his coaches moved away from targeting him.
The Titans threw to him 79 times in 2011 and just 49 times in 2012, when he had 36 catches for 232 yards.
Coordinator Dowell Loggains' offense will re-emphasize getting the ball to CJ in the passing game. Tuesday at an OTA practice he dropped at least two passes.
I didn’t get a chance to talk to CJ, but I did ask Mike Munchak about Johnson as a pass catcher.
“His first couple years he put up some good numbers for us out of the backfield," Munchak said. "We need to get back to that. The fact is he is a weapon not only when you hand him the ball but also when you throw him the ball. We have to get more out of that phase of the offense, and he’s a big part of that. The tight ends are another part of that -- like Frank Wycheck used to do, turn those five-yard passes for a 15-yard gain making the first guy miss.
“That’s a big weapon that we really haven’t used the last couple years as much as we need to and get some of those easy completions, easy yards that we really haven’t gotten that other teams have gotten on us. That’s a phase we need to get much better in and we can’t drop any balls, let alone something like that.”
Running back coach Sylvester Croom said he’s been pleased overall by what Johnson’s shown in the pass game. He rated CJ as a “very good route-runner” who can still get better.
Getting a speedy player the ball “in space” is something every offensive staff talks about. Considering how many stacked boxes the Titans are likely to face, getting him the ball in the passing game can greatly enhance his ability to gain yards.
Johnson is going to be much happier in Loggains’ offense than he was in Chris Palmer’s. The Titans certainly hope that means he will be better as a target for Jake Locker.