The Packers continue their quest to achieve a first round bye in the playoffs with a game against the Tennessee Titans this week. The Titians don’t boast a strong record this year, but they do have weapons that can give the Packers trouble…and possibly deal a loss virtually ending any hope of the second seed in the playoffs. The main weapon the Packers will need to be concerned with is Chris Johnson.
Johnson is a well known player, but a player that has been up and down recently. Perhaps this is a result of peaking a bit too early, but this could also stem from the fact that he dipped under 1,200 yards rushing for the year last year…the first time in his career this has happened. This year Johnson’s total yards are up (1,159 so far, good for seventh in the league for rushing), but it has still been a feast or famine season for CJ2K. Johnson has gone over the 120 yard mark three time in the past six weeks, but in the other three games he ran for just 80, 51, and 44 yards. When Johnson gets going he can run against your defense all day and put up Adrian Peterson-like number, but unlike Peterson, he could just as easily be shut down and become a complete nonfactor.
This is even true when looking at his performance during a game. Johnson is one of those backs who has the speed and elusiveness to break a big run at any time…and if he does get to the second level there is a good chance that he’s just gone. He did it this past Monday night against the Jets to the tune of 94 yards. He is fourth in the league at runs more than 20 yards with eight so far this season. Johnson is a home run threat and someone the Packers have to pay close attention to whenever he is on the field.
One Packer who is going to be relied upon to stop Johnson is Brad Jones. Jones is a having a breakout season with his transition to inside linebacker. Jones has brought a physical style of play that has made Packer fans miss Desmond Bishop a little less this year. Countless times Jones has hit the hole and stopped a running back dead in his tracks, allowing only a minimal gain. Jones has even showed to be generally adequate at coverage, something Packer inside linebackers have been struggling with for years.
Coach McCarthy noted Jones’ improved play in his press conference on Wednesday. McCarthy stated that one possible reason for this improved play is the fact that Jones has been kept at one position this year. He also enjoys the fact that Jones does so many of the little things right.
It’s going to take doing those little things right, and more, in order for Jones to stop Johnson. Jones and the defense will need to stay disciplined and focus on bringing Johnson to the ground. If they can do this then it will go a long way to stopping the Titans offense and winning the game. If the Packers can’t, then they may allow another 200+ yard game at Lambeau Field.
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