Often, we get so caught up in this fantasy football world we live in that it’s easy to overlook that there’s so much more reality than fantasy. Last year, for instance, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson held out, then struggled the entire season to hit his stride.
Though he ended up with 1,047 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, he wasn’t himself. And he certainly wasn’t the standout back so many had counted on for their leagues. While he had four 100-yard games, he also had seven games in which he averaged fewer than 3.0 yards per rush.
It’s easy to overlook how miserable all this made CJ, who has looked completely different this preseason. It’s why he couldn’t conceal his excitement for Sunday vs. the New England Patriots.
“I’m ready, I’m ready,” said Johnson yesterday, gold grill affixed for the cameras. “Last year, I was so ready to get last year over with, and just get in the offseason and work hard and get ready for this year. Just get back on the field and just prove everybody wrong.”
What happens when you have a breakout year like 2009 is that people want more. They move the finish line back and grow the expectations. And when you don’t live up to them, the crash is harder. That, no doubt, is what Johnson was dealing with last year. And the holdout didn’t make it easier.
He’s still focused on team goals, of course. He didn’t set any predictions for carries or say he’ll need a certain number. “Just want to go in there and get the victory and I’ll be happy with that,” Johnson said.
But he does want to get in the groove.
“That’ll do a lot for me,” CJ said. “It’s all about momentum and getting in the groove, and I feel like if I get in the groove early, it’ll be a big year for myself and the whole offense.”
There are no givens. And it may not be easy to run against Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and a fundamentally sound and stout defense. In fact, Bill Belichick could specifically gear up to stop CJ and take his chances with Locker. But the Titans are a lot more confident this year than they were last year at this time.
“With a lot of things, we just didn’t know what was going to happen last year,” coach Mike Munchak said. “Chris (Johnson) held out and that created some uncertainty. I think just because of the offense being with the new coordinator, being with new coaches, there was so much newness last year that I think with a lot of things, we were very unsure how things were going to start in that first game or how things were going to go. This year, we’re much more optimistic. I think we’ve fought through some of our problems that we had last year. Hopefully that will show up in this game.”