Chris Johnson had run for over 4600 yards prior to this season, placing him in some elite company along with Hall of Famers like Emmit Smith and Barry Sanders. The problem was that the low first round pick thought he wasn't getting paid like a future Hall of Famer, so he instigated a prolonged holdout that caused him to miss all of training camp.
Johnson got paid handsomely with a new deal that averages over $13 million per season, but the Titans are not feeling very good about the return on their investment as Johnson has only averaged 43 yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry thus far this season, finding the end zone only once. With Tennessee sitting at 4-3, a half game out of the AFC South lead, they know that if they're going to make the playoffs, it will have to be through a tough running game.
It wouldn't seem that the Cincinnati Bengals are a likely candidate for Johnson to have a breakout game. Mike Zimmer's unit is the second best unit in the NFL against the run, giving up only 85.4 yards per game on the ground. They are tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the best per rush average in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry.
The question is whether the Titans will continue to hand off to the struggling Johnson, or like last week against Indianapolis, invest more carries in backup Javon Ringer. Ringer carried 14 times for 60 yards against the Colts last week after Johnson struggled early. Johnson only netted 34 yards on as many carries.
Certainly Ringer, a Dayton, Ohio native, would love to get a crack at the Bengals defensive line, anchored by his former teammate at Michigan State, Domata Peko. Whether the Titans can afford to take carries away from their multi-million dollar back is another story.
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