NFL Nation: Dangerous player

NFC: D. Jackson (PHI) | S. Jackson (STL) | P. Harvin (MIN) | D. Williams (CAR)
AFC: R. Brown (MIA) | D. Sproles (SD) | J. Cribbs (CLE) | C. Johnson (TEN)

Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

A look at the players opposing teams hate to see with the ball in their hands in the open field.

Chris Johnson wants to race Usain Bolt and he’s not kidding around when he says he thinks he’d beat the 100-meter Olympic gold medalist.
 
 Don McPeak/US Presswire
 Titans running back Chris Johnson has nine plays of 30 yards or longer this season.


In the AFC South, Texans receiver Andre Johnson, Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew are all feared skill guys, opponents don’t want running with the ball in their hands. But no one ranks as a bigger threat than Johnson, the Titans’ second-year running back who may be the league’s fastest player.

He leads the NFL in rushing yards (824) and is among the top-50 rushers in the league. His 6.9-yard average is tops among backs with at least 40 carries. He leads the AFC in yards from scrimmage with 961 -- an average of 7 yards a touch.

“I don’t think any team has got too many guys that can catch him,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said before New England crushed Tennessee 59-0. “He’s absolutely a threat to go all the way anytime he’s got the ball. Just look at the Houston game. We’re talking about big time here now. This is as good as we’ve seen and as good as I’ve seen in quite a while.

“This Chris Johnson, go to the Houston game, he can go 90 yards on a draw play, third-and-10, third-and-20. He just takes it to the house. You can’t give this guy any space at all. ... He’s a terrific back. He’s got speed. He’s got quickness. He makes people miss. He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s as good a back as I’ve seen in a long time.”

Johnson absorbs his share of no gains or carries for a loss, but they are part of the trade-off for his home-run potential. The Titans have 12 plays of 30 yards or longer this season. Nine them are from Johnson -- runs of 91, 89, 57, 52, 48, 40, 32, and 30 yards and a 69-yard catch. Those have produced five of the Titans’ 12 touchdowns.

Many a team finishes with the Titans and laments a failure to tackle Johnson when they had a chance. Jacksonville safety Brian Russell was a victim Sunday when the Titans got their first win. Johnson bounced off Russell en route to the end zone.

“Their guy, he’s got some juice,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “We know that. You’ve got to keep him hemmed in, you’ve got to tackle him. You have to get population to the ball.”

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