AFC South: Cedric Griffin

C.J. vs. A.P. closer than expected

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
8:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

 
 Charles Small/US PRESSWIRE
 Chris Johnson's performance for Tennessee on Sunday drew some comparisons to Adrian Peterson.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Can you mention them together? Is it reasonable to ask?

Might Chris Johnson be comparable to Adrian Peterson?

Take the idea into the Minnesota locker room at your own risk.

"You're not comparing him to Peterson, are you?" said Darren Sharper when asked if the two backs' performances in the Titans' 30-17 win amounted to a wash.

"He's an explosive back, quick, fast, showed some good vision on plays. He's definitely a threat because he can also be used in the passing game. Whenever you have a back with that versatility, he's tough to stop. He flashed some good plays and he flashed some talent. But he's not going to be [Peterson]."

The thing is, he doesn't need to be.

After the Titans' dismantling of the Vikings at LP Field, Peterson certainly still ranks as more dangerous. But in context, Johnson can do as much or more because he's surrounded by a better team, a 4-0 team.

Peterson accounted for 30 percent of his team's yards, averaged 4.6 yards a touch and scored two touchdowns in a loss.

Johnson accounted for 27 percent of his team's yards, averaged 3.8 yards a touch and scored two touchdowns in a win.

Only four games into Johnson's career, the Titans are tempering their praise of him, and they should. Seventy-five yards from scrimmage is hardly cause for a parade.

But the speed, explosion and play-making abilities he brings the Titans amount to an X factor Jeff Fisher's teams have never had before. So those qualities make Tennessee dangerous in a way it has never been before.

"He's got as many skills as anybody I've played with, including Tiki [Barber]," Kerry Collins said. "He just gives you that burst, gives you that speed that just comes along every so often. He's a football player. He's got all the physical skills, no doubt about it. But the guy's also got a knack for knowing what to do with the ball."

On both of his touchdown runs, Johnson got around the corner and pulled up, able to coast inside the pylon knowing well in advance he'd gotten the blocks and won the race.

He's not going to be as singular a force as Peterson. The Titans are still determined to pound out some yards from LenDale White, who also will get a good share of goal-line carries -- he scored his fifth touchdown Sunday.

But it sure feels as if Johnson brings the same sort of voltage to games that Peterson does, and the one issue that might have held him back from being able to be an every-down back seems to have melted away.

"He's probably come along father than I thought he would on pass protections," offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. "For us to put him in on third downs, that doesn't usually happen with a rookie. As far as running, I've never worried about that very much ... If he does what he did on his two touchdown runs, that gives us something else where we don't have to pound him up the middle all the time."

Before I move on, here's the rest of a best-of collection of key people discussing Johnson and Peterson after the game:

* "We know we have one of the best backs in the league," fullback Ahmard Hall said. "Even though he's a rookie, he's playing like a vet. He's preparing every week and he's out there proving himself to this league."

* "They are both special players," Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt said. "Adrian's done it. He had a huge year last year. He's a bigger man. But they both have the ability to take it to the end zone every time, they just add a certain level of electricity to the air when they touch the ball."

* "He's got a 4.24 40, so if you give him the corner, it's going to be tough to contain him," Peterson said. "He did a good job, he ran the ball hard. I talked to him after the game and I encouraged him to just keep doing what he's doing, keep running the ball. And call me if you need any pointers."

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