- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter
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Here are three ways he can help prove himself worthy of the deal during that span:
1) Make team predictions.
Following his 2,006-yard season in 2009, he declared he wanted to crush the all-time record for single-season rushing yardage and hit 2,500.
Hey, I’m all for big goals. But to some it came off as selfish, individualistic talk. The 2,000-yard season was also an 8-8 season. The Titans didn’t need more yards from Johnson, they needed him to contribute to more wins.
So now would be a good time for him to shift course. How many yards does he want to run for? As many as the team needs to win often enough to get into the playoffs. That would be a great answer.
2) Swing for singles.
Make good contact and hit the ball hard. Then some of those will find the gaps for extra bases. Then some of those will land over the wall. Swing for the fence and a hitter is usually doomed.
Many who understand run schemes and holes saw Johnson seek the big play far too often last year, often at the expense of what was available.
Coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews are two Hall of Fame offensive linemen. They understand how to create space for a running back. But that space is going to be good enough for 2 or 3 yards a lot more often than it's good enough for 40 or 50.
Johnson should concentrate on taking what’s there and the big runs will come. Push too much for the highlight reels and he'll wind up with too many runs of zero or negative yards.
3) Become a Nashvillian.
Yes, he’s done just fine counting on his offseason work back home in Orlando. But the Titans have shown a huge commitment here, and it’s time for him to match it.
If Munchak and the Titans want him working in their offseason program, it’s not an unreasonable request. If it’s not 100 percent of the time, that’s fine. Spend some time doing what you’ve done. But also spend some time at team headquarters out of season, where young players can see the team’s best player at work.
It’s an easy way to change appearances and perceptions, and to have a positive influence. And the work week can be short, the flight to Orlando quick.
With a four-year deal worth an additional $53.5 million, including $30 million guaranteed now attached to his two remaining years, Chris Johnson has as many as six years left with the Titans.