- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Titans provided some pre-bye week quotes Thursday when they had a closed practice and no media availability. And almost all of them mentioned it.
Johnson: "That’s a guy we grew up watching. We named jump balls after him. When somebody goes up and gets one, it’s named after him. We call it ‘getting a Moss.’ So I’m very excited about the situation, to play with a guy like that, and I’m very excited that he’ll back some of those guys out of the box. I know for a fact they can’t put all those guys in the box with that guy out there."
Left tackle Michael Roos: "I think it’s going to be great to have Randy here, a player of his caliber, expertise and experience. It should definitely help our offense, especially in the running game, being able to take away some extra guys in the box from C.J."
Free safety Michael Griffin: "You are going to have to keep a safety over and one-on-one with him. You just hope that he comes in and can help this team out and we can continue to move forward."
ESPN Stats & Info’s Next Level research says Johnson’s been super-effective out of three-wide formations this season, but that there have not been too many of those plays.
With two or fewer wide receivers on the field, Johnson has 155 carries for an average of 3.9 yards a rush and seven touchdowns.
With three or more wide receivers on the field, Johnson has 23 carries for an average of 5.3 yards and one touchdown.
With Moss in and Kenny Britt (hamstring) out, the Titans can still go three-wide with Moss, Nate Washington and one of three slot options -- Justin Gage, if they want to go back to the old, or Damian Williams or Lavelle Hawkins if they want to stick with the new.
I’d love to see them line up with Moss, Washington and Williams to spread the field on a larger share of plays when they intend to hand it to Johnson.
I'd also like to see them throw it to Johnson more. He's second on the team with 22 catches, but only has 90 yards. That's a 4.1-yard average as compared to a 10.1-yard receiving average a year ago.
One AFC personnel man told me this is an area in which Moss can really have an influence.
"When we played them last year, they would get the receivers down the field and then let Chris check-release," he said. "If your defense has guys over the top of Moss, that takes a guy out of the box. So now all off a sudden if you're operating under the same principles and this guy is stretching the field, the check down is much more isolated and he gets the ball in space.
"And if you're running the sprint draw, taking your guys and running them down the field, you set up the throw and then you offset the back and hand it to him on the draw. They've had success with that. And now when you've got a vertical threat like Moss it affects the defense."
Johnson’s presence can certainly also help Moss.
Vince Young has been great overall this season with play-action passes (thank you CJ) with a 151.2 passer rating on just 29 attempts.
But since 2008, Titans wide receivers have only two more catches out of play-action that Randy Moss has by himself in the same span:
Moss has 43 catches for 862 yards and eight touchdowns on balls that average 20.9 yards in the air.
Titans wide receivers have 45 catches for 878 yards and four touchdowns on balls that average 17.1 in the air.