Chris Johnson ready to rebound
The coaching staff also is banking on major contributions from Nate Washington, Jared Cook, first-round pick Kendall Wright and troubled receiver Kenny Britt, once he is healthy and through with whatever discipline he might face from the NFL.
If they throw the ball well, it can help me because it will back some of those guys out of the box. I feel like that's not a bad thing for me. I feel like it's a good thing.” -- Chris Johnson
Still, as odd as it sounds, many are wondering just how running back Chris Johnson fits into this new offensive system.
Johnson has been the focal point of the offense since arriving in 2008. But last year, following a monthlong holdout and finally a $53 million contract extension, Johnson wasn't the same. He rushed for a career-low 1,047 yards, barely half his output in 2009 when he ran for 2,006 yards and earned the nickname "CJ2K."
He said he fits in fine with the Titans' pass-first philosophy and believes it might even benefit him.
"If they throw the ball well, it can help me because it will back some of those guys out of the box," Johnson said. "I feel like that's not a bad thing for me. I feel like it's a good thing."
Johnson took part in the Titans' offseason program, thanks in part to a stipulation in his new contract, and his presence seemed to help him regain his old form.
"I feel like everything is going in the right direction. I'm out here working a lot and trying to get better every day," he said. "I felt like I went through a lot of things (last year). I didn't have training camp and showed up a couple of days before the first game."
Johnson and running backs coach Jim Skipper have watched a lot of film from when Johnson was a dominant runner, in part to remind him of the player he was and can be again.
"I've watched everything on him and so has he. All we did was see what he was doing, so he can keep repeating it," Skipper said.
Coach Mike Munchak plans to give Johnson a few more carries in preseason than he has received in the past to get him ready for the regular season. The Titans' first preseason game is Saturday night in Seattle.
"He's going to want his touches," Munchak said. "I think maybe more so than in the last couple of years, (he will get reps in preseason). ... I think he wants to get some good work in."
Johnson, his coaches and teammates like what they have seen thus far in training camp, including Monday's scrimmage with the Atlanta Falcons in Dalton, Ga.
"He looked great," Hasselbeck said of Johnson's effort against the Falcons. "He's looked like he's had a good camp so far. The next step will be getting him more involved in the passing game, but he caught a couple of balls today, and the more we can do that, the better."
For Johnson, the focus is on him getting better but also the Titans getting better. As he points out, he hasn't been to the postseason since his rookie year in 2008. He would like to get back to the 2,000-yard plateau, but even that takes a back seat to winning.
"Basically (my goal is) just to win," he said. "I want to be the first guy to run for 2,000 yards twice, but I just want to come in here and win and have a good year."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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