Titans' Johnson not living up to his name

Posted: November 04, 2011

THE NICKNAMES that have sprung up for Chris Johnson are funny - unless you drafted him.

Most are a play off the CJ2K moniker he picked up when he ran for 2,000 yards 2 years ago. Only now, Johnson has been referred to as CJ0K or CJ2.8, which refers to his dreadful yards per carry average.

"There's going to be people questioning what he's doing just because he's paid how he is and he's perceived to be one of the top backs in the league, so people expect an awful lot from him every time he steps on the field," said Titans coach Mike Munchak. "When you come short of that . . . everyone's trying to figure out what's wrong. Something must be wrong."

Something sure is wrong with Johnson, who is averaging 43.1 rushing yards per game. Subtract the one good game Johnson had (101 yards against the Browns) and that average falls to a Ryan Moats-esque 33.5.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it right now. If there was, I'd let you know," Munchak said after Johnson's latest disaster, a 34-yard outing against a Colts defense that entered the game 31st against the run. "We're just trying to get something fixed that hasn't been as productive as we'd like, and we're not doing anything different . . . We don't feel any different about Chris Johnson. Nothing's changing. Our philosophy hasn't changed."

That's not entirely true. Johnson has scored only one touchdown all season and is now yielding more carries to Javon Ringer. Johnson is not hitting the holes with any authority and is proving to be a bust after signing a $53.5 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. The 35-day holdout Johnson used to get that deal has to be factored into his decline.

Johnson turned 26 in September, so it's not as if he's over the hill. But to hear the coach announce, "C.J. is our starter and nothing has changed," is troublesome. It's also inaccurate.

Things have changed, coach. Johnson is on fantasy benches and his nickname is now CJRB3. This week's challenge is the Bengals, who are ranked second in run defense.

"This is a situation where it can't get no worse, really, so it can't do nothin' but go up," Johnson told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "I'm always eager to get back on the field and practice after a bad game and try to make it better."

Lord knows he's had plenty of chances to do that this season.

Chris Johnson's miserable game-by-game numbers:

Week 1: vs. Jaguars, 9 carries, 24 yards, 2.7 avg. 0 TD

Week 2: vs. Ravens, 24 carries, 53 attempts, 2.2 avg. 0 TD

Week 3: vs. Broncos, 13 carries, 21 yards, 1.6avg. 0 TD

Week 4: vs. Browns, 23 carries, 101 yards, 4.4 avg. 0 OT

Week 5: vs. Steelers, 14 carries, 51 yards, 3.6 avg. 1 TD

Week 6: Bye

Week 7: vs. Texans, 10 carries, 18 attempts, 1.8 avg. 0 TD

Week 8: vs. Colts, 14 carries, 34 attempts, 2.4 avg. 0 TD

Season: 107 carries, 302 yards, 2.8 avg., 1 TD

Chris Johnson's rushing totals through seven games each year:

YearAtt. Yds. TDs Avg. 100

2008: 122 carries, 626 yards, 4 TD, 5.1 avg. 2 100-yard games

2009: 119 carries, 824 yards, 4 TD, 6.9 avg. 3 100-yard games

2010: 163 carries, 622 yards, 7 TD, 4.1 avg. 4 100-yard games

2011: 107 carries, 302 yards, 1 TD, 2.8 avg. 1 100-yard game

CONTEST OF THE WEEK

 LeSean McCoy vs. Matt Forte in the Monday nighter. Who will have more rushing yards? Include your projection of each player's rushing total for this week. The first tiebreaker will be the closest to McCoy's total. Email entries to FantasyFootball@phillynews.com or faxed to 215-854-5524 by 8 p.m. Monday. One per customer, please. The winner will be notified next week and announced in next Friday's paper.

McCoy leads the NFL with an average of 107.7 rushing yards per game. Forte is fifth at 96.0. The Bears run defense is 12th, allowing an average of 108.7 yards. The Birds are 19th at 118.3 ypg.

POSITION WATCH

* Quarterbacks: If you are kicking around the idea of benching Philip Rivers Sunday against the Packers, please don't. The Packers have been generous against the pass, probably because opponents are forced to throw the ball so often. Still, Green Bay has given up 432 yards passing to Cam Newton and 328 to Sam Bradford . . . Josh Freeman is a sleeper this week against the Saints. Freeman, a major disappointment this season, had his best game of the year against New Orleans in Week 6 (303 yards, two TDs) . . . Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick has had three consecutive games of 70 percent completion percentage, but has thrown only five touchdowns with four interceptions in that span. He has thrown at least one pick in five of the last six.

* Running backs: Start Oakland's Michael Bush in Sunday's decent matchup against visiting Denver. The Raiders need to establish the run to make life easier on new quarterback Carson Palmer. Taiwan Jones, a rookie out of Eastern Washington, is up next on the depth chart as it appears Darren McFadden (foot) needs at least another week to recover from a right foot injury . . . Cleveland's Peyton Hillis (hamstring) practiced yesterday, but is just a flex or RB3 option against the Texans . . . Brandon Jacobs, of the Giants, is a juicy play against the Patriots. In fact, with teammate Ahmad Bradshaw iffy with a foot injury, Jacobs' value might never be higher. So if he has been languishing on your bench, now might be the time to deal him for a good wide receiver or a quarterback depth.

* Wide receivers: So much for all that hand-wringing by Giants fans when New York's Steve Smith signed with the Eagles. Victor Cruz, Smith's replacement in the slot, had his third big game in 4 weeks and deserves to be in starting lineups against the Patriots. Over that same span, the Eagles' Smith has exactly one catch . . . Also for Big Blue, Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) missed practice again yesterday. Plan on benching him this week . . . OK, enough of the Giants' report. Expect Atlanta's Julio Jones to get 7-100-1 against the smallish Colts secondary. Jones has had two games, plus the bye week, to get his hamstring healthy. As long as he's cleared, he should be in fantasy lineups.

REMINDER

Thursday games start next week and run through Week 16. First up is Oakland at Denver, so baby-sit lineups accordingly.

FANTASY ISLAND

Streak spotting:

* If Drew Brees can throw a touchdown pass in his 36th consecutive game on Sunday, he will tie Brett Favre (2002-04) for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only Johnny Unitas, with 47 games from 1956-60, has more.

* Anyone considering playing Washington's Ryan Torain or Roy Helu should note that the 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 29 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the league.

* Carson Palmer needs 190 yards for 23,000 in his career. The way he looked the last time out (8-for-21, 116 yards), it will take multiple games to get 190.

From yesterday's chat:

Q: What are your thoughts on Brandon Lloyd and LeGarrette Blount. Trade 'em or hold 'em?

A: Not sure what you'll get for them since they are WR3 and RB3, respectively. If you can get a good game out of Lloyd and are able to trade high, that might be the move. The Rams close with Cincy, Pittsburgh and San Fran in Weeks 15-17. All are below-average matchups during fantasy postseason.

Q: My RBs have been killing me. They are hit or miss most weeks. Which two would you start this week? BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Rashard Mendenhall or Jackie Battle?

A: Mendenhall and Battle. I had Mendy and got so sick of him, I traded him. But if you have him, he's gotta play. Even against Baltimore.

Q: Matt Ryan vs. Indy or Matt Hasselbeck vs. Cincy this week?

A: Matty Ice, especially if he gets Julio Jones back this week. Cincy's defense isn't bad.

--

Ed Barkowitz, who thinks Brent Celek is in for a big second half of the season, has been writing about fantasy football since 2001. Chat fantasy with Ed every Thursday at noon on philly.com.

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