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Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Can a big CJ season rank as disappointing?

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Whether or not Chris Johnson advertised that he’s hoping for a 2,500-yard rushing season, he’s in an awkward spot this year.

The two most recent backs to surpass 2,000 yards -- Jamal Lewis in 2003 and Terrell Davis in 1998 – did not face the extraordinary popularity of fantasy football that Johnson does.

Chris Johnson
After eclipsing 2,000 yards last season, Chris Johnson faces the highest expectations.
That factors into external pressures and public expectations for CJ, the No. 1 pick in millions of leagues.

If he runs for 1,600 yards and scores 16 touchdowns -- a fantastic season -- many will judge him a failure on the heels of 2,006 yards and 16 TDs.

That’s ridiculous in football terms, of course, especially if the Titans are winning.

Fans of the NFL who play fantasy need to work, in situations like this, to disconnect the two.

Johnson took some questions on this sort of thing Wednesday after practice. Here are the two best things he said.

“I don’t want to sit there and say it’s a good year knowing my goal is 2,500. But if you look around at the average rushing yards a guy has in this league, I think Steven Jackson last year had 1,500 or 1,600 yards rushing and he had a pretty good year …”

“I feel like if I end up rushing for 1,500 yards and this team goes further in the playoffs and the Super Bowl than it would be OK.”

Meanwhile, Johnson learned of a new number that seemed like it might stick in his head.

The franchise record for rushing yards on opening day is 216 -- Eddie George’s total in an overtime win over the Raiders. It was the club’s first regular-season game in Tennessee and was played at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis in 1997.

“That’s a goal I can set to try to beat or whatever like that,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to go out there and say, ‘I’m going to run for this many yards versus Oakland’ or anything like that. My main focus is to go out there and get the win.”

Oakland’s defense will present challenges in both size and speed, Johnson said.

Raiders coach Tom Cable, who was on the staff that coached Johnson at the Senior Bowl, was the first of 16 to offer the obligatory compliments leading into a matchup against the Titans and CJ.

“Well, coaching-wise there are a lot of us here that are familiar with Chris because we had him in the Senior Bowl,” Cable said. “So, we do know how fast he is, but we’re not the ones out there trying to tackle him. You can only explain that to your team, and try to play great team defense ...

"He had a toughness about him and certainly played the game at a different speed -- you knew that for sure.”