It’s halfway through the preseason and Chris Johnson still has not gone … all … the … way.
The running back who set records last season with his ability to break big plays has not had a carry for more than eight yards in either of the Tennessee Titans’ first two contests. His average gain on his 11 carries is a pedestrian 2.6 yards, although he has scored one touchdown in each.
“It really don’t bother me,” Johnson said. “I feel like if I go out there and keep pressing and trying to make a big play, then I won’t be doing my job and I won’t be effective as a runner. I’ll just take what they give me and the big runs will come.”
Obviously, with only five carries at Seattle and another six this past Monday against Arizona, his opportunities have been limited. He did not play beyond the first quarter in either of the those games.
A review of his big-play resume’, though, suggests that it’s not necessary for Johnson to build to a breakaway. Simply put, it could happen at any time.
“You don’t plan on big runs, you just hit your hole and big runs happen,” running backs coach Craig Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of time. Anybody who’s that explosive, every time he gets a touch there’s a chance he can go the distance.”
The statistics clearly support that assertion.
In his two regular seasons, Johnson has run for a gain of 30 yards or more 17 times. The breakdown, by quarter, of when those runs have occurred:
• First: 4
• Second: 4
• Third: 4
• Fourth: 5
Similarly, the number of carries he had before he broke a big one is varied. It has happened as early as his third rush of a contest or as late as his 21st. The breakdown, by carries:
• 1-5: 5
• 6-10: 3
• 11-15: 3
• 16-20: 5
• 21 or more: 1
“All offenses in the NFL, make no mistake about that, could use that,” Craig Johnson said. “It’s very difficult to have a 14-play, 80-yard drive. But when you have a home run threat and you can go one play for 80, that makes it very nice.”
That it has not happened thus far in the preseason doesn’t mean it won’t, and the odds won’t necessarily increase if he plays longer and carries more in the remaining two contests, the first of which is Saturday at Carolina.
“He hasn’t had a lot of carries, a lot of touches so that is not a concern of ours,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He has the potential at anytime to go. But it is not a concern.”
Last season, Johnson carried 25 times for 77 yards with a long gain of 16 in the preseason. As a rookie in 2008 he carried it 33 times for 182 yards and broke one for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m just anxious to get to the season and play a full game,” he said. “I’m tired of training camp and tired of the preseason, really. I’m just excited for the season.”