With the Titans now 0-2 to start the season and Johnson beginning to put the blame on his teammates’ shoulders, it’s not out of the question to think that he could request a trade in hopes of resurrecting his career with a change of scenery.
Once considered Adrian Peterson’s strongest challenger for the billing as the NFL’s best running back, Johnson has struggled mightily since racking up just over 2,000 yards throughout the 2010 season. Although the struggles were apparent in 2011, it’s now blatantly obvious in 2012 that Johnson has lost his ranking as an elite running back.
Through two games, Johnson has amassed a whopping 21 yards on 19 carries – 1.1 yards per carry – while failing to score a single touchdown. It’s been so bad that second-year quarterback Jake Locker has led the team in rushing yards so far. That lack of production, however, can’t be put solely on Johnson’s shoulders.
The first factor in this shortage of yards is the Titans offensive line, which has acted like a sieve this season. On the majority of those 21 carries, Johnson has been hit before he can even reach the line of scrimmage. The porous blocking has limited his abilities as a speedy, explosive runner and will continue to do so unless changes are made.
Johnson even had the courage to call out his offensive line, further distancing himself from his blockers and effectively building locker room tension.
“People need to step up and do their jobs,” Johnson said following Sunday’s embarrassing 38-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers. “They don’t need to let people beat them. It don’t matter who the opposing defense is, you can’t let your guy beat you.”
Another limiting factor for Johnson has been Locker’s early struggles. With defenses having no reason to respect Locker and his skills as a passer, opposing teams can put eight men in the box to defend the run. Until Locker proves that he can consistently take advantage of the soft coverage, Johnson will continue to face overwhelming run defense.
At this point, the Titans don’t have much to gain from keeping Johnson on the roster.
His public comments are slowly deteriorating the chemistry between runner and blockers. His pitiful production could easily be reproduced by backup Javon Ringer when he gets healthy. Assuming his struggles continue, he’ll be more valuable to another team, which could work out in the Titans’ favor.
Most potential trade suitors won’t be overly enthusiastic about making a blockbuster deal to land Johnson’s services considering his horrid start to the 2012 season. There’s no denying, however, that the runner formerly known as CJ2K is a proven game-breaker when given the proper supporting cast. It only takes one interested party for a trade to materialize.
If put behind a capable offensive line and accompanied by an effective quarterback, there’s a good chance that Johnson could return to his former glory.
Johnson deserves a couple more weeks’ worth of attempts before the Titans throw in the towel on their troubled running back. If the ground game continues to suffer from a stalemate, though, don’t be surprised to see Johnson hit the trade block.