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Sunday, October 2, 2011
Thing that's changed for Johnson, Titans

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

I picked up on something K.C. Joyner wrote earlier this week about the Titans’ run-blocking for this post, and Joyner reached out to further flesh out his thoughts on Chris Johnson’s struggles.

As we all try to figure out what exactly is wrong with Chris Johnson and the Titans run game, I am interested in any X and O perspective.

Here is more from Joyner, who says part of the issue is the disappearance of the sort of run play the Titans utilized under Mike Heimerdinger, the former Titans offensive coordinator who died Friday after a battle with cancer.

Joyner says one issue is that Heimerdinger inserted counter elements into run plays that don't normally have counter elements.
"For example, Heimerdinger would add a counter action to a sweep, which is something that is very rarely (if ever) done by other NFL teams.

"The current Titans staff has Johnson running much more standard counter plays along with a solid dose of slant running plays. They just don't look to have Heimerdinger's counter action plays in the playbook, or at the very least it looks like they aren't using them. This isn't to say that they cannot add them or that Johnson can't success using other run plays, but using those plays he seemed so comfortable with might help. The problem may be that it takes coordinated O-line play to do that and the Titans, like a large number of NFL teams, do not look to have very coordinated run blocking at the moment. It's probably a residual effect of the lockout and should improve with time.

"Counter plays give a hint of going one direction before going the other. The moment of hesitation they can create is the kind of thing Johnson can typically take advantage of with his speed."

While new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer may be calling more standard run plays, I’m surprised that Hall of Fame offensive linemen Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews wouldn’t see it if the missing counter-action is contributing to the overall run problems.

Keep an eye out for any change today in Cleveland.