Boclair: CJ wants a better deal but his best days might already be behind him

Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 11:45pm

Everyone — teammates, coaches, management, fans — is eager to see Chris Johnson back with the Tennessee Titans.

And why not? He’s the most exciting offensive player in the game, a real blink-and-you-miss-it kind of game-changer.

Yet in the debate generated by his absence from all workouts and related team activities last month, most have overlooked one important point: We’ve already seen the best CJ has to offer. There’s nothing to suggest he’s ever going to do any better or even be as productive as he was a year ago.

Johnson, who gained 2,006 yards, was just the sixth to do it and the first since Jamal Lewis in 2003.

None of the other five who got there — O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, and Lewis — ever did so again. Most, in fact, never were anywhere near as good in the seasons that followed.

Dickerson provides the best case study. He, like Johnson, topped 2,000 in his second season, and his breakaway speed and running style were similar to Johnson’s.

He played nine more seasons in the NFL after setting the single-season record of 2,105 in 1984. He topped 1,000 in just five of them and led the league in rushing only twice.

Most telling was his yards-per-carry average, which was a hefty 5.6 in his record-setting effort. In the years that followed, he never did better than 4.6 yards per carry for a single season, and from 1987 through 1991, that figure dropped annually.

Johnson averaged — you guessed it — 5.6 yards per carry last season. Anyone want to wager on how far he will slip in 2010?

Lewis reached the magical number in his third season and averaged 5.3 per carry. In the six years that followed, he topped 1,000 four times but never exceeded 4.4 yards per attempt.

Sanders averaged 6.1 when he topped 2,000 (1997), then dipped to 4.3 the following campaign and promptly retired. Terrell Davis played three more years after he eclipsed 2,000 with a 5.1-yard average but never picked up more than 4.2 yards a pop in any of them.

Simpson was the first to get to 2,000. He did so in 1973 and averaged 6 yards per carry when he did. He played six more seasons and twice averaged at least 5 yards (that number was 4.2 in 1974), but the final three years were utterly forgettable.

In other words, anyone looking for a repeat performance from Johnson this fall — or any of the ones that follow — likely will be disappointed.

True, the argument can be made that training techniques have evolved, and the game has changed, so there is reason to
believe that he can buck the trend.

But Johnson has chosen not to avail himself fully of the advancements made because he has elected to stay away from the team, at least for a time. He instead has adopted a show-me-the-money attitude.

And now everyone sits around and waits to see who will blink first — the team or the player. It’s a far cry from the eye-popping excitement Johnson provided in the latter months of 2009. CJ has decided to take this opportunity to look out for No. 1, which makes sense given that his value is likely never to be higher than it is right now. He might want to look down, though, because there’s every reason to believe that’s where he’s headed — statistically speaking, that is.

4 Comments on this post:

By: jwk6179 on 6/7/10 at 8:42

Finally, a sports writer in Nashville covering the Titans that doesn't seem to be on the Titans payroll and/or in bed with Bud Adams/Jeff Fisher/Mike Reinfeldt. I've been saying this about Chris Johnson all along that no NFL RB that has ran for 2000 yards in a season has ever come close to the 2000 yard mark again and David Boclair provided the stats to prove it. Everyone else in Titansland seems to think that Chris Johnson will exceed his yard production from 2009 in 2010. And with the exception of Barry Sanders, everyone one of the Running Backs that ran for 2000 in a season did it with the first few years of their careers. And the last two RBs that did it , Jamal Lewis (2nd year) and Terrell Davis (4th season) both suffered serious knee injuries (torn ACLs) and were NEVER the same back again.

Also, because of the CBA between the NFL and NFLPA, the Titans' hands are tied when it comes to giving Chris Johnson a raise in salary.

By: titansfan789 on 6/7/10 at 12:16

Of course Chris Johnson most likely wont have another 2000+ yard season because no one has ever done it twice? Tom Brady threw for 48 touchdowns one season that doesnt mean he is a bum if he doesnt do it every season. So Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are bums if they dont win the super bowl and set records every single year? This argument against Cj is stupid because Cj can be the best runningback in the NFL every year even if he never hits the two thousand yard mark again.

@jwk6179...What are you talking about? This article does sound like the writer is on the titans payroll because he is saying dont pay Chris Johnson. The titans like to pay mid level average players because they are cheaper but they dont like to pay big money to superstars like Chris Johnson that will cost alot. When Bud Adams cares more about winning playoff games than saving money the titans will get better. The titans havent won a playoff game since 2003 and no one seems to care. The fans i see are just happy to be at the stadium win or lose, they dont care what the score is. Bud Adams is happy that all the games are sellouts and he gets paid along with the tv contract money.

titans #1

By: EquinsuOcha on 6/8/10 at 8:07

The titans are not as cheap as you think.......They were number 7 on the salary list in 2009..........

By: rbull on 6/8/10 at 9:09

Chris Johnson signed a five year contract and he should live up to his signed contract. Once the contract is up for renewal then start your argument about more money and use the 2,000 plus yardage for more money. If he doesn't sign then let him sit out and in time he will come around. He is not the only running back on the team. I hope he doesn't sign and this will show him and others that anybody can be replaced.
Maybe Bud Adams could take the money he had to shell out for his two middle fingers he gave to the Buffalo Bills owner/fans and add to Johnson's salary.....what a scum bag the Titans have for an owner.