Titans' Johnson could break loose after bye week, Moss' arrival

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chris Johnson isn't close to being on pace for his stated goal of 2,500 yards rushing this season, nor the 2,000 yards he gained last season.

The Tennessee running back, hampered by a sore thigh the past month, said he's really not focused on that goal right now. He's still the NFL's fifth-leading rusher with 721 yards, which hasn't been easy with opponents looking to stop him at all costs.

"We're 5-3 and winning," Johnson said. "We're not having a losing season. I can't really come in here very frustrated. I know we could be way better than we are in the run game. I know we still have time to fix this. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll be OK."

Now Johnson has had a bye week to rest up his sore thigh, and he also will have new addition Randy Moss on the field Sunday when the Titans visit Miami (4-4).

Johnson believes Moss will help, seeing the veteran receiver as a playmaker to help him find more room to run.

"I know for a fact they can't put all those guys in the box with that guy out there," Johnson said.

Coach Jeff Fisher is less forthcoming on how much adding Moss and his 153 career touchdown receptions will help the run game.

"That remains to be seen," Fisher said. "If you're going to get some rotation to Randy, then they eliminate the unblocked defender in the box, and that certainly helps."

Johnson and the Titans' run game pales to last year's. The Titans are 10th in the NFL, averaging 123 yards -- a big drop from second a year ago, when Johnson's 2,006 yards made him just the sixth man in NFL history to break 2K.

His preseason boast that he wanted to top Eric Dickerson's league mark of 2,105 yards and run to 2,500 simply made him a bigger target.

Johnson has reeled off nice runs, but he's been nothing like he was en route to The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year last season. He was the first player in league history to score three touchdowns of 85 yards or longer in a career, and he did it in one season.

His longest TD run this season was a 76-yarder in the opener against Oakland. An 85-yarder in a loss to Pittsburgh in Week 2 was erased by a holding penalty. Johnson hasn't had a run longer than 42 yards since, not with defenses stacked up to stop him, and hasn't gained more than 66 yards in the past two games.

On his longest run in the last game, a 33-25 loss Oct. 31 at San Diego, Johnson ran to his right and found a wall of defenders. He reversed direction, ran to the other side of the field and up the sideline 29 yards for a TD.

Tennessee has been trying to force defenses to concentrate on other players and take advantage of one-on-one coverage on their receivers. Kenny Britt had a career day with 225 yards receiving Oct. 24 against Philadelphia, and Nate Washington had his best day as a pro with 117 yards in San Diego.

Then Minnesota waived Moss, the 6-foot-4 receiver who ranks fifth all-time with 14,778 yards receiving -- only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has more touchdown catches (197). The Titans, the only NFL team to put in a claim, won him off waivers in a move Fisher said was no risk at all.

The Titans, tied with Indianapolis atop the AFC South, agree.

"It should definitely help our offense, especially in the running game, being able to take away some extra guys in the box from C.J.," left tackle Michael Roos said.

How much remains to be seen. Moss joins the NFL's highest-scoring offense -- the Titans are averaging 28 points -- but he won't be on the field for 60 or 70 plays per game, especially as he learns the offense. Fisher said it wouldn't be fair to put Moss out on third down when offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger can call anything from the playbook.

But the Titans installed Moss immediately as a starter opposite Nate Washington as Britt heals from a right hamstring injury that will keep him out against Miami. The Dolphins are 16th against the run, giving up an average of 107.1 yards.

With eight games left, Fisher is expecting at least a couple of long TD runs out of Johnson this season.

"He's running really well," Fisher said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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