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The Fight over No. 1: Chris Johnson vs. Adrian Peterson



FIRST UP, IN THE RED CORNER,  HAILING FROM PARTS UNKNOWN … MORE M&Ms THAN MMA … IT’S JAMES ELVINS



Let’s be completely honest straight out of the gate; There are no losers at this stage of the season – or the draft – with either of the players we’re discussing here. In fact, I’d be quite happy to see any one of four players go at 1.01 and be happy that the owner would have a legitimate shot at owning the No. 1 overall runningback by the season’s end.

All things being equal, however, there are some quietly compelling reasons why you don’t need to overthink 1.01 this year.

Firstly, the offensive line. It’s been a quiet evolution rather than revolution down in



Tennessee
. Averaging only one lineup change every two seasons, it’s quietly produced 2,000 yards worth of rushing in each of the past four seasons. The loss of experienced center Kevin Mawae may deprive the team of some veteran leadership, but at 39 some might say it’s addition by subtraction. The lack of suitors for him since he left the Titans is telling, and with five-year ever-present starter and Pro Bowler left tackle Michael Roos still anchoring the blind side, I certainly don’t see any problems opening lanes this season – far from it.


 
Yearr

Rushing Yards

LT, LG, C, RG, RT

2006

2,163

Roos,

Bell
, Mawae, Olsen, Stewart

2007

2,136

Roos,

Bell
, Mawae, Olsen, Stewart

2008

2,001

Roos, Amano, Mawae, Scott, Stewart

2009

2,228

Roos, Amano, Mawae, Scott, Stewart

2010

??

Roos, Harris, Amano, Scott, Stewart

Another reason Johnson was so successful last year was Vince Young. The uptick in Johnson’s output coinciding with the installation of Young back at the helm was no small coincidence (see table). It’s one thing to gameplan for Johnson and a reasonable passing quarterback (Kerry Collins or Young – neither has the arm of an Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady) … but it’s quite another to do the same thing when you have a quarterback that can play dual threat. Young’s ability with his feet in the same backfield as Johnson causes opposing defensive coordinators some interesting problems and hard choices to make.

 


 

Opp

Result

Score

QB Rushing Yards

Johnson attempt

Yards

Receptions

Yards

TD


 

Collins

PIT

L

13-10 (OT)

1

15

57

1

11


HOU

L

34-31

4

16

197

9

87

2

NYJ

L

24-17

3

22

97

1

8


JAX

L

37-17

10

16

83

3

11




IND


L

31-9

-1

9

34

2

9


NE

L

59-0

-1

17

128




BYE

Young

JAX

W

30-13

30

24

228

2

11

2

SF

W

34-27

14+1TD

25

135

3

25

2

BUF

W

41-17

29

26

132

9

100

2

HOU

W

20-17

73

29

151

0



ARI

W

20-17

8

18

154

3

32

1



IND


L

27-17

16

27

113

6

28


StL

W

47-7

44

28

117

3

69

2

MIA

W

27-24 (OT)

24

29

104

2

55


SD

L

42-17

40+1TD

21

142

3

37

1

SEA

W

17-13

-2

36

134

3

20

2


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

W/Collins


 

2 ypg

15.83

99.33

2.5

21

0.33

W/Young

27.6ypg

26.3

121

3.4

37.7

1.2

Another oft-neglected factor in his resurgence was the loss of Cortland Finnegan to the Titans defense.  And, if you don’t think one player can make a difference to a defense just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers how they felt their defense performed after losing Troy Polamalu. You don’t need to understand much about football to know that your chances of toting the rock are as likely as those of a certain oil company winning any ecology awards in this (or indeed, any other) lifetime if you’re chasing the game. Finnegan is fully healthy and has spent the offseason working out with Darrelle Revis. I don’t expect



Tennessee
to be chasing as many games as they did, as early as they did, last season.

What’s just a little scary is imagining exactly just how many yards CJ could have ended up with … had the passing defense and Collins‘ play both not been subpar and forced them into the air for the better part of half a season!

Other sporting myths abound: “Too many carries”, “No one has back-to-back seasons like that”, “He only produced those numbers as they were looking to beat a record” etc. To which I’d only suggest that some memories are short-lived. Especially, with regards to carries vs. production vs. consecutive years. I’d suggest that it’s entirely possible to have a good year – even following an exceptional year.

Name

Atts

Year

Carries

Receptions

Yards From Scrimmage

TD


 


E.Dickerson


6ft 3in 220lbs

83

390

51

2,212

20


 

 

84

379

21

2,244

14


 

 


 

85

292

20

1,340

12

Missed 2 games

 

86

404

26

2,026

11


 

 


E.Smith


5ft 9 in 210lbs

91

365

49

1,563

13


 

 

92

373

59

1,713

19


 

 


 

93

283

57

1,486

10

Missed 2 games

 

94

368

50

1,484

22

Missed 1 game

 

95

377

62

1,773

25


 

 


B.Sanders


5ft 8in 203lbs

94

331

44

1,883

8


 

 

95

314

48

1,500

12


 

 


 

96

307

24

1,553

11


 

 

97

335

33

2,053

14


 

 


T.Davis


5ft 11in 206lbs

96

345

36

1,538

15


 

 

97

369

42

1,750

15

Missed 1 game

 


 

98

392

25

2,008

23


 

 


L.Tomlinson


5ft 10in 221lbs

“02

372

79

2,172

15


 

 

“03

313

100

2,370

17


 

 


 

“04

339

53

1,776

18


 

 

“05

339

51

1,832

20


 

 

“06

348

56

2,323

31


 

 

“07

315

60

1,949

18


 

 


T.Barber


5ft 10in 200lbs

“04

322

52

1,518

15


 

 

“05

357

54

1,860

11


 

 


 

“06

327

58

1,662

5


 

 


C.Johnson


5ft 10in 200lbs

“08

251

43

1,448

10

Missed 1 game

 

“09

358

50

2,509

16


 

 

I’d also propose that anyone thinking that the longest current-tenured coach in the NFL would pander to the whims and inflate the ego of any one individual over the team should go and ask Albert Haynesworth if he thinks Jeff Fisher would do that.

In the final two games – once out of contention – he rushed for 142 and 134 yards. He’d already put up similar numbers in Weeks 2, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 (197, 228, 135, 132, 151 and 154 – and that’s just the rushing yardage). That’s a team using its best weapon to recover from 0–6, not a team attempting to make any one individual look good.

Whilst no one may have had a back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons before, they have certainly had more than enough consecutive 2,000 yards from scrimmage players to illustrate that talent will win out.

Can he reach 2,500 yards again? Probably not, but 2,000 all-purpose yards? Why not? Three other players have done it before!

Ultimately, the guy is playing to get paid next season – while I wouldn’t target anyone necessarily for that reason alone, in alignment with all the other stars that orbit his prodigious talents, it’d be a brave man that bets against him doing an even passing impersonation of last season. This is a player whose basement dwarfs the ceiling of most player’s career years.

You know what to do!


NEXT UP, IN THE BLUE CORNER … THE MAN WHO PUTS THE WIND INTO WINDY CITY… JIM BUKOWSKI





Chester




Taylor
is out; Toby Gerhart is in


Finally, Taylor and his four-year $14.1 million contract are gone. Over the past two seasons

Taylor
has averaged 97.5 carries and 44.5 receptions. No longer will Peterson be looking over his shoulder at a high-priced veteran waiting to get his touches. Peterson lost 49 carries between 2008 and 2009, going from 363 to 314.  Meanwhile,

Taylor
lost only seven carries going from 101 in 2008 to 94 in 2009. 

With rookie Gerhart ticketed to be Peterson’s primary backup, Peterson should rarely be coming off the field.


Peterson Can’t Hold Onto the Ball


It’s true. Peterson has had trouble holding onto the ball, as his two fumbles in
Minnesota’s 31-28 loss to

New Orleans
in the NFC Championship game will attest.

Peterson spent some time watching film this offseason and has come to the realization that he had been holding the ball away from his body at the end of runs and is determined to be more conscious of how he holds the ball in 2010.

Just in case you think Gerhart will take over the first time Peterson puts the ball on the ground, think again. Last year at Stanford, Gerhart fumbled seven times in 343 carries.


Peterson is a Liability in the Passing Game


Last season Peterson caught 43 passes, and according to Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress, Peterson is going to see an expanded role on third down this season.

Gerhart caught 39 passes in his entire college career. He will not be a threat to Peterson’s third-down role.


Brett Favre is back as quarterback


Favre threw for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2009. That will not happen again. The league gets it; this guy is still a player and defenses will not sleep on Favre in 2010. With the increased attention that will have to paid to the Vikings’ passing game, Peterson will have more room to run.


Sidney Rice has Surgery


With Rice, the Vikings’ most dangerous weapon via the air in 2009, gone for at least the first 10 games of the season, look for the Vikings to lean on Peterson even more in the passing game. A 60-reception season is definitely within reach.


History of 2,000-Yard Rushers


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Of the five players to rush for over 2,000 yards prior to Johnson, not one was able to top 1,500 yards the following year. In fact, the best follow-up year was by Barry Sanders in 1998, when he rushed for 1,491 yards with a 4.3 yards per carry. That paled in comparison to his 1997 totals of 2,053 yards and 6.1 yards per carry. 

Johnson is entering his third year and won’t be 25 years old until Sept. 23, but age has not been a factor in determining post 2,000-yard success. O.J. Simpson was 25 years old when he rushed for 2,003 yards in 1973. Eric Dickerson was 24 when he rushed for 2,105 yards in 1984. Sanders was 29 when he rushed for 2,053 yards in 1997. Terrell Davis was 26 when he rushed for 2,008 yards in 1998.  Jamal Lewis was 24 when he rushed for 2,066 yards in 2003.


‘Every Coaches Dream’ Still Isn’t Happy


Even though the Titans were able to get Johnson another $1.25 million this season, he’s still not happy. In Johnson’s mind he played himself into a long-term deal last season and it doesn’t bode well that he reported to camp saying, “I can’t say no hard feelings.”

The average career for a running back is 2.6 years. Johnson is well aware of that and is far more concerned with getting paid than he is with another 400-touch season.  He reportedly wanted between $30-40 million guaranteed, so I don’t see Johnson getting a good night’s sleep until the Titans pony up.

Johnson has the tools to rush for over 2,000 yards in 2010, but he could also finish with 1,250 yards. And, that is the reason that I will avoid Johnson this year. His downside is far steeper than that of Peterson.


Agree?  Disagree? We want to know. You can leave a message for James Elvins after the tone at deeperanddown@gmail.com and Jim Bukowski can be found hanging out at thecornerofknowledge@yahoo.com.

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