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Chris Johnson Sees Similarities to 2008 Team

Posted May 7, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans coaching staff and most of the roster has flipped significantly since 2008, but running back Chris Johnson said the team he’s been conditioning with is “kind of close to the team we had my rookie year.”

That team started 10-0, tied a franchise record with 13 wins in a season and was the last Tennessee team to make the playoffs.

It also ran the ball efficiently and often, racking up 508 rushes for 2,199 yards, compared to 403 times by opponents for 1,502 yards. There were four games in which Tennessee ran the ball 24 times or less that season, including all three losses. Last season the Titans went 4-3 when rushing at least 25 times and 2-7 when rushing the ball 24 times or less.

Chris Johnson said working out with his current teammates makes him think the Titans are "kind of close" to the 2008 team.

Johnson said he remembers the amount of work he put into the offseason program, organized team activity practices and training camp as a rookie and wants to do the same this season to develop chemistry with a new interior of the offensive line.

“Basically you’ve got to go through those things to get in the rhythm, and once we got in the rhythm that year, we just continued to run the ball,” Johnson said. “We at least ran the ball at least 30 times every game, so it helped us stay in a rhythm.”

The sixth-year pro said he’s been pleased with the offseason moves the Titans have made that included the signing of guard Andy Levitre and drafting of guard Chance Warmack because he thinks they will help Tennessee return to a run-first offense.

Coaches were able to take the field with players for the first time in the offseason program on Monday, but offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said the desire to run the ball was stressed in meetings in the two weeks before that.

“The first thing we talked about with the offense when we met with them was we want to be able to run the ball when we want to and need to,” Loggains said. “Obviously, the commitment that (general manager) Ruston (Webster) and (coach Mike Munchak) made, we felt building the interior of the offensive line was a big part of that.”

Loggains was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator the final five games of the season, which helped him gain in-game experience, but he’s excited about the opportunity design a system that fits players’ strengths, takes care of the football and works the clock. He also wants to improve passing efficiency but be ready to capitalize on a big pass play.

“I feel like the last five games of last year were a good experience for me to be able to go through the process of it,” Loggains said. “Now, I have the opportunity to run what we’re going to do this year, having an offseason of Phase 2 OTAs and training camp, you get to install that, so hopefully you’ll see that this is a team that’s going to run the football well, and when we throw the ball, we’re very efficient with it.”

The Titans are likely to look for Johnson in the passing game to improve that efficiency. Johnson caught 43 passes in 2008, 50 in 2009, 44 in 2010, 57 in 2011 and 36 last year.

Johnson said things are going well with new position coach Sylvester Croom, who has previously coached Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson, as well as Steven Jackson and Maurice Jones-Drew.

“It’s pretty good,” Johnson said. “It seems like he knows what he’s talking about, and we’ve talked about some adjustments and some things I do and some things he likes that I do.”

Johnson said it’s been “exciting” to follow free agency and the draft and return to Baptist Sports Park, but results are what will matter most.

“I feel like the things we have done have given us a chance to take the next step, but like I’ve been saying, we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Johnson said. “Everything looks good on paper, but we’ve got to work hard and prove it on Sundays.”

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