Chris Johnson said he was not interested in assigning blame for the Tennessee Titans’ continuing struggles in the run game.
He was even less inclined to assume any of it, however.
“I wouldn’t sit here and say I’m to blame,” the fifth-year running back said. “It’s just a situation where I’m going to be only as good as my line is going to be. So we’ve got to work together and get better together.
“… Hopefully we’ll get better quicker than we did last year.”
In each of his first three seasons the 24th overall pick in the 2008 draft had a 100-yard game within the first two weeks. Last season he had 77 yards on 33 attempts through the first two contests and finally topped 100 yards — 101 on 23 rushes at Cleveland — in Week 4.
Three of his four 100-yard games came in the second half of the season, but the Titans still finished 31st in rushing yards per game and 29th in average per carry.
Two weeks into the current campaign he has 21 yards on 19 attempts. His longest run in the opener against New England was five yards, and he had a seven-yard gain last Sunday at San Diego. That means his other 17 attempts have netted a total of nine yards.
The Titans are last in the league with 58 rushing yards on 26 carries. More than half of that total (32 yards) have come from quarterback Jake Locker.
“I don’t think it’s one thing you can pinpoint,” left tackle Michael Roos said. “Obviously, if it was something like that we would have fixed it already. I think it’s just the little things that it comes down to. It gets magnified when you lose and we’re putting up such bad running numbers.
“… Do we want to run the ball well? Of course. … I want us to run the ball, but if we have to throw it 50 times to win, I don’t care. I want to win.”
This week’s opponent, the Detroit Lions (noon, LP Field, Fox TV) have allowed 225 rushing yards through the first two weeks of the season and were 23rd in rushing yards allowed per game last season.
The only other time Johnson faced the Lions was during his rookie season. He rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries that day, but that was the year Detroit finished 0-16.
The Lions come into this game at 1-1 and off their first playoff appearance in 12 years.
“We’ll see how it all goes this week,” Johnson said. “We’re all working to get better, but I can’t say we’re better just because we’ve worked on it for a week.”
Titans players and coaches have attributed much of the struggles to a lack of opportunity through the first two weeks.
Tennessee trailed New England 21-3 at halftime and was behind 17-3 after two quarters at San Diego. In each case, it ran the ball four times just four times in the second half.
However, Johnson is one of 35 backs in the league with at least 19 carries. Of those 34, 14 have gained more yards in a single carry than Johnson has so far this season.
“Everyone is at fault,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We’ll just have to leave it at that. You can’t go two weeks and give a guy [minimal] carries and say he needs to be replaced.
“We really need more time to determine if we’re really as bad as we think we are.”
• Injury update: Linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle) did not participate in practice for the second consecutive day. The only other Titans player who did not participate in Thursday’s workout was left guard Steve Hutchinson, who was rested.
Right guard Leroy Harris (knee) and defensive tackle Mike Martin (foot) were credited with full participation. Harris sat out Wednesday and Martin was limited.
The others listed on the injury report are: linebacker Zach Brown (knee), defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (knee), tackle Mike Otto (finger/knee) and running back Javon Ringer (elbow).