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Notebook: Chris Johnson & Shonn Greene Building a Bond

Posted Jun 11, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chris Johnson said Tuesday he’s enjoyed the Titans’ offseason program because it’s been an opportunity to build a family bond with new faces.

He said he’s also enjoyed the open communication with offense coordinator Dowell Loggains as Tennessee builds its offense for 2013 and the competitive spirit that the offense and defense have brought to each other through the first eight of 10 organized team activity practices.

“It is very good to get to work with each other and meet everybody and try to make it a family,” Johnson said. “We got so many new guys in here, so basically not just working with each other, but they got the atmosphere where everything is a competition. Anytime you are competing in practice, it makes everybody better and the team better.”

The speedster is still the top running back for the Titans, who also added powerful runner Shonn Greene in free agency this offseason. Johnson and Greene each carried the ball 276 times last season and each rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the past two seasons (Johnson in all five pro seasons). Both have been able to work on the roles they will have with the Titans and believe they will benefit each other.

“Shonn he is a good guy. We have been out here working out in the weight room and out on the field working together,” Johnson said. “He brings a bigger guy to the backfield that we needed in the past years since LenDale (White) left. We haven't really had that guy, and the guys really haven't had that opportunity. I think LenDale had fifteen touchdowns my rookie year, so it is a good thing we are bringing that type of guy back in.”

Greene said it’s been a fairly smooth transition since leaving the New York Jets, where he often split carries with other players during the past four seasons.

“It’s just a good feeling you know, everyone is out there working hard and we’re all here working for one goal and that’s to get better,” Greene said. “I think everyone is pushing toward that one goal.”

The Titans want Chris Johnson to be more involved in the passing game in 2013 than in 2012. Click here for a slideshow from Tuesday's organized team activity practice.

One area the Titans are looking to boost is receptions by running backs to allow Tennessee’s offense to establish a rhythm and sustain possessions. Although Johnson and Greene have different attributes, each will likely receive some of those opportunities — especially Johnson.

“We’ve got a lot of opportunities to run routes out the backfield, and I think that’s a great tribute for CJ,” Greene said. “He’s good out the backfield running routes so he’s going to catch a lot of balls.”

Johnson said Loggains has been receptive to what he and running backs coach Sylvester Croom have communicated to him.

“Dowell was around when (former offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger) was here, and we just have a lot of give and take,” Johnson said. “I tell him certain things I like and certain things I don't like. The offseason is a perfect time for me to work on things he wants me to and put in his ear things I like to do.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said Johnson is having a great offseason. The Titans have their ninth and 10th OTAs scheduled for Thursday and Friday of this week and a mandatory mini-camp set for June 18-20.

“He’s running hard, he looks good. He’s gained weight (to about 200 pounds),” Munchak said. “He’s done all the things we’ve asked him, and that’s why I assume he’s going to have a big year for us, which means offensively we should be a lot better than we were last year.”

DEFENSIVE SHIFTS: The Titans have used the OTAs to take a look at players at different positions and roles. Karl Klug, who has been mostly at defensive tackle in his first two years is working at defensive end. Scott Solomon, who played defensive end as a rookie in 2012 is working with linebackers, and Alterraun Verner has had snaps at corner, nickel and even safety.

Solomon said he was excited about the opportunity and he’s seen some similarities between defensive end and outside linebacker because of the responsibility to set the edge of the defense.

“I feel more versatile doing it,” Solomon said. “I’m in a lot more packages so I’m glad to be doing it and taking advantage of it.”

Solomon said he’s “much more comfortable” after eight OTA practices, and Munchak said he’s seeing progress.

“I think he’s getting better. I think it’s something that he’s definitely a very physical player. He’s definitely a mismatch problem if he gets matched on a running back, so there’s a handful of teams that have that package with a bigger guy like him. Now, it’s just getting used to when he has to drop (in coverage) — that’s not something that he’s going to do a lot of, but I think he’s getting more comfortable so we’ll see how it plays out for him.”

LEVITRE IN ACTION: Guard Andy Levitre donned a Titans helmet for the first time Tuesday and participated in some individual drills with the offensive line. Levitre joined the Titans during free agency after starting all 64 games in his four pro seasons in Buffalo. He has been recovering from a procedure on his knee.

The Titans have been patient with multiple players who are recouping at this point on the calendar because they want everyone to be healthy when training camp opens next month, but Munchak said he liked the snippets he’s seen so far.

“Just to watch him do an individual drill, just like watching (tackle David) Stewart last week, it’s refreshing because you realize how quickly they get it by just doing drills with them and giving him some walk-through stuff and seeing how quickly he responds,” Munchak said. “He looks good. He’s a guy that if he had to, if we were playing a game all week, I’m sure he could line up, practice all week and play, but right now that wouldn’t be smart for us to do with him or Stewart so I think we’re just being smart there but it was good to see him. I think it’s good for his confidence to be more a part of it, especially when you’re coming to a new team, so I’m looking forward to him doing more the rest of this week and next week.”

Munchak said Levitre has done a good job of handling the recovery even though it is clear that Levitre wants to show teammates more about what he can do on the field.

“There’s nothing worse than being a top guy coming in and wanting to make an impression and you can’t work the way you want to,” Munchak said. “They’ve seen how he is in the meeting rooms, when he’s rehabbing and how hard he’s working out here. They know what he is. They’ve seen him play in the league so they know what we’ve got there, and we’re just excited to get him out here.”

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