Teammates committed as Johnson to reaching 2,000

BY foxsports • December 17, 2009

The way Chris Johnson dashes downfield, it seems like his blockers have easy jobs.

Not really.

The Tennessee Titans, especially the offensive linemen, are as committed as the second-year running back to helping Johnson become only the sixth player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season with an eye toward Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards.

So offensive linemen, tight ends, fullback Ahmard Hall and even the wide receivers are busy blocking defenders. With the fluid way Johnson changes direction, no one wants to miss the block that frees up the NFL's leading rusher. The challenge starts once Johnson has hit the first hole.

``That's when you have to have your head on a swivel,'' tight end Alge Crumpler said. ``He does some amazing things. Early on in the season, you kind of don't know where he's going. But now the way he's running, I don't care where he's going. Just get up the field and make something happen.''

Johnson isn't just outrunning defenders, and those teammates, to the end zone. He's even more potent over the past few games because he's zigzagging around the field, letting teammates pick up defenders and following those blocks to the sliver of daylight he needs.

Just look at his 66-yard touchdown catch-and-run after a short pass in last week's 47-7 win over St. Louis. Johnson eluded Rams defensive lineman Leonard Little, then worked his way downfield with teammates working to pick up defenders before he scored.

Rookie receiver Kenny Britt has blocked on some of Johnson's long TD runs. He is confident Johnson can reach Dickerson's mark.

``Going out there and just blocking for CJ, just being part of history is something so special,'' Britt said.

Left tackle Michael Roos said it's more difficult blocking for Johnson only in the sense that each player wants to hold his block long enough for the running back to squirt past. Then it's time to look for someone else to block. Forget about trying to catch up to Johnson, the man clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds at the 2008 NFL Combine.

``You make a point to cover down, same as you hold your block, try to hold your block. You never know if he's going to cut back all the way across the field and the next thing you know you might be able to make a great block that springs him for a touchdown,'' Roos said.

Make no mistake. As much as Johnson has targeted becoming the first player since Jamal Lewis in 2003 to rush for 2,000 yards, this has become a team goal. The Titans kept handing the ball to Johnson in the fourth quarter against St. Louis, trying to boost his yardage.

``Everybody's talking about it, and he has the yards he has,'' Roos said. ``Obviously, it'd be something fun to get. It'd be great to be a part of it. I don't think any of us want to be part of it taking losses. ... We'd rather get the wins.''

With the Titans winning six of the last seven games, that has made the pursuit much more fun with Johnson's streak of 100-yard games at eight and counting. Johnson currently has 1,626 yards and remains on pace for 2,001 yards with three games remaining.

``They've really done a nice job all year, specifically the last four or five weeks,'' Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday.

He noted receivers like Nate Washington, Britt and Justin Gage have been busy downfield, clearing a path for Johnson.

``They've thrown a number of key blocks, even if they're just kind of shielding off a defender and getting in his way, getting in his face,'' Fisher said. ``It allows C.J. to setup his moves. They've been very instrumental. You'll see, a lot of the big plays downfield, you'll see linemen down the field as well chasing and having an impact.''

That might be why Miami coach Tony Sparano, whose Dolphins (7-6) must defend Johnson on Sunday, joked that using 14 players might be the best way to slow him down. Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder thinks gang-tackling will be the best approach, and that 66-yard TD jumped out at him as he watched tape of Johnson.

``He just juked out the entire team twice, I think he juked out 22 people,'' Crowder said.

Thanks to some help from his friends.

NOTES: Vince Young returned to practice but was limited with his strained right hamstring. ... Linebacker David Thornton missed a second straight practice because of an injured shoulder that knocked him out of last week's game. Fisher said they still are evaluating his status and hope he can return when asked if the injury might end the linebacker's season. ... Defensive tackle Tony Brown missed a second straight practice himself with a sore knee. ... Linebacker Keith Bulluck was back at practice in a limited basis.



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