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Gameplan vs. Titans: Shut down RB Chris Johnson
Question of the Day
NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - Tennessee running back Chris Johnson’s No. 28 might as well be a glowing red bull’s eye _ at least to defenses.
No NFL defense wants to be gashed by the last player to run for 2,000 yards in a season, and beating Tennessee starts _ and stops _ with slowing down the speedy Johnson.
It’s working so far this season too. The Titans (2-2) have won each of the two games where Johnson ran for more than 100 yards, and both losses came when defenses held him under that mark.
The Dallas Cowboys (1-2) get their turn next on Sunday, and linebacker Keith Brooking says Johnson is the man they must stop for a simple reason: The running back can score anytime he touches the ball.
“We talk all the time about everybody being where they’re supposed to be,” Brooking said.
“If you got one guy who is not doing what they’re supposed to do, a guy like that will absolutely crease you and he’s out the gate. When he gets out in the open … we’ve got some good athletes in our defense, but there’s nobody that’s going to catch him.”
Johnson likely made himself an even bigger target for defenses when he proclaimed his goals for 2010 included not only topping Eric Dickerson’s NFL single season rushing mark of 2,105 yards but 2,500, a number more easily reached by quarterbacks.
Just like the last half of 2009 as Johnson ran for 2,006 yards, defenses through the first four games stacked eight and nine players near the line of scrimmage to contain him. Denver linebacker Robert Ayers said the Broncos keyed on Johnson in their 26-20 win last week with outside linebackers blitzing to keep him contained.
They held him to 53 yards on 19 carries.
“We knew if we could slow him down that it would be good things to happen to us,” Ayers said.
Fullback Ahmard Hall said that’s what the Titans will keep seeing from defenses year in and year out as long as they have Johnson.
“He knows everybody’s keying on him,” Hall said. “He has a big target on his back being the best back in the league. It’s just going to take patience, and eventually we’re going to get it done.”
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said defenses aren’t necessarily scheming up any new approaches to stop Johnson.
“We’re getting a little more edges. We played two odd fronts, 3-4 fronts. You know with the big linebackers up there it’s hard to get the ball bounced outside. It will come, I have confidence in our offensive players and our backs and our staff that we’ll get it turned around. We still ran for 122 yards,” Fisher said.
Brooking noticed six or seven Broncos around the ball at all times last week, and pride is involved.
By David Keene
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