When a running back is coming off a season with 358 carries, his team typically will consider decreasing his workload a bit to keep wear and tear from setting in too soon.
Apparently that’s not the case with Chris Johnson, as a recent report out of the Nashville Tennessean suggests that the Titans have no plans to use Johnson less often in 2010.
“I don’t know. I don’t have that in my mind, really,” offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. “You always go into the season hoping to be real balanced (between the run and the pass) and not real heavy run. You’d like to be 50-50, but I think the games and what happens in the game will determine how many times he’ll carry. So I don’t have that answer right off the bat. When you hand it to a guy and he’s averaging six yards a carry, it’s easier to give it to him again.”
Heimerdinger also said that he’s not worried that Johnson missed all of the team’s offseason work due to contractual issues. In fact, he “saw [Johnson] in the offseason and he looked great.” Heimerdinger also said the running back will be motivated to reach or eclipse the enormous numbers he produced last season.
“It would be very hard to do the same type of things, since no one has done it in the history of the game,” Heimerdinger said. “But I know the type of goals C.J. sets for himself. He’s the type of guy who likes to prove people wrong, so we’ll see. But someone with his talent and ability, you have to at least expect him to have another great year.”
Of course, statistical expectations still should be tempered from a fantasy perspective
Johnson is coming off one of the best fantasy seasons for a running back in the history of the National Football League. Not only did he lead his position in rushing yards with 2,006, but he also broke Marshall Faulk‘s single-season record for scrimmage yards (2,509) and finished with a solid 16 total touchdowns.
But if the past is any indicator, Johnson isn’t going to duplicate his impressive 2009 numbers again.
In 1973, O.J. Simpson became the first running back to ever rush for 2,000-plus yards in a season. He barely gained 1,100 yards and scored eight fewer total touchdowns the following season. Aside from Johnson, a mere four running backs have rushed for 2,000-plus yards since “the Juice” hit the mark. That list includes Eric Dickerson (1984), Barry Sanders (1997), Terrell Davis (1998) and Jamal Lewis (2003).
None of those four backs even reached the 1,500-yard rushing mark the following season.
That doesn’t mean Johnson is going to be a complete flop. In fact, he should post tremendous fantasy numbers across the board in an offense that will lean on him as the centerpiece. He’s one of the true featured backs left in the league, and his versatile skill set makes him a threat to make plays on a consistent basis.
Just don’t look for a repeat of his 2009 totals.