Lost amidst all the Chris Johnson contract talk this offseason is whether the diminutive third-year running back can be in top form after registering a league-high 408 touches in 2009. ESPN the Magazine recently pointed out that 41 running backs in NFL history have had over 400 touches in a season. On average, those running backs have endured 99 fewer touches the following season.
Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger isn’t concerned. Asked by The Tennessean if he’d like to lighten Johnson’s load, Heimerdinger said, "I don't know. I don't have that in my mind, really. The ball doesn't weigh that much … You always go into the season hoping to be real balanced (between the run and the pass) and not real heavy run. You'd like to be 50-50, but I think the games and what happens in the game will determine how many times he'll carry. So I don't have that answer right off the bat. When you hand it to a guy and he's averaging six yards a carry, it's easier to give it to him again."
If the Titans find more rest for Johnson, they’ll likely have to turn to other undersized scat backs. Last year’s fifth-round pick, Javon Ringer, is 5’9”, 205. So is Alvin Pearman. The absence of a true power runner could bode well for undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount, the 241-pound bruiser from Oregon who is trying to climb from fourth string to second or third.
-- Andy Benoit
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