|Ttians RB Chris Johnson can join elite company Sunday if he reaches the 7,000-yard mark in career rushing yards. (US Presswire)|
The shelf life for an NFL player is exceedingly short. The average player remains in the league for 3.30 years, according to statistics compiled in 2011 by the NFL Players Association. For running backs, the typical career is 2.57 years.
At a position in which injuries are the norm, Chris Johnson is hoping to defy the odds. The Tennessee Titans' All-Pro running back has only missed one regular-season game in his five-year career. It occurred in the 2008 regular season finale when the Titans rested him after clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Johnson missed his second-straight practice with a sore right ankle Thursday. But he insists he will play on Sunday against the Jaguars in the Titans' season finale. Among running backs, Johnson is tied for second in consecutive games played with 63. It's a source of pride for the diminutive runner.
“Every year everybody is getting nicks and bumps, it's just a situation of how well you're able to take care of your body,” Johnson said. “I take pride in it, it shows I've been durable. I know we're not going to the playoffs but I still want to go out there and fight with my teammates.”
It could be a historic day for Johnson if he rushes for 168 yards or more for the second time this season. With 168 rushing yards, he will become only the fourth running back in NFL history to the 7,000 yards in the first five seasons of a career. The others are Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith.
“That would be real nice, anytime you can set a record and have your name up there with Hall of Famer type guys it's always a great accomplishments,” Johnson said.
If Johnson rushes for 164 against Jacksonville he will surpass Earl Campbell (6,995) for the most rushing yards by a player in franchise history over their first five seasons. Johnson needs 13 yards to pass Eddie George for second place.
A season after finishing with a career-low 1,047 rushing yards, Johnson ranks seventh in the NFL with 1,187. He trails Texans RB Justin Forsett by 11 games for the most consecutive games played by a running back.
“For his size and the hits he's taken over all the years, that's a credit to him,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He's not just a first-and second-down back, he plays quite a bit on third down.”
More changes on the OL: Munchak said Thursday that second-year lineman Byron Stingily will start at right tackle Sunday vs. the Jaguars. Stingily received his first career start last week after Mike Otto became ill the night before the 55-7 loss to the Packers. Otto has practiced both days this week.
“We knew he had a lot of development ahead of him,” Munchak said. “Solomon, as hard as he goes in practice, it's like a (Kyle) Vanden Bosch thing where the tempo is so fast that it's helped him get better.”
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Locker looks to correct underthrows: Jake Locker is coming off arguably his worst game of his NFL career when he finished with two interceptions and a QB rating of 41.0 against Green Bay. More disconcertingly, Locker underthrew his receivers on several attempts, including an incompletion to TE Taylor Thompson in the first quarter that could have gone for a touchdown.
Titans offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains agreed Locker underthrew Thompson but added that he was pleased with his accuracy on deep throws during a 27-23 loss to the Colts on Dec. 9.
“It's a what-have-you-done-for-me lately business,” Loggains said. “Any time you miss a ball there's a fundamental breakdown whether it be a lower-body or upper-body (technique flaw). It always comes back to that.”
Locker ranks 30th in the NFL in completion percentage (56.2). Loggains worked with Locker in training camp on his footwork on the top or end of his dropbacks.
“It's a work in progress. It needs to continue to improve for us to get where we want to go,” Loggains said. “(It's about) his overall consistency with his footwork, keeping a base and not overstriding a lot. When you're overstriding, you're throwing high and too long.”
Injury Update: Besides Johnson, LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), C Kevin Matthews (ankle), TE Craig Stevens (concussion), WR Damian Williams (foot) and LB Will Witherspoon (chest) also missed practice.
Munchak said it's unlikely that McCarthy will play vs. the Jaguars. Stevens also hasn't been cleared after his second concussion of the season. If Stevens is out, rookie TE Brandon Barden will be used in the Titans' 2-TE sets.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Tennessee Titans, follow Matt Rybaltowski @CBSTitans.