|Johnson will need to increase his 2012 output by 69 percent to match the mark Dickerson set in 1984. (USATSI)|
“Every running back's goal is to break that record,” Johnson told NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano recently. “You want to break the 2,105. ... I believe I can do it.”
It's good to have confidence, and early in his career Johnson was the NFL's most dynamic back. But after rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009 while averaging 5.6 yards per carry, Johnson slumped to 1,364 yards (4.3 YPC) in 2010 and 1,047 (4.0) in 2011, leading to speculation the Titans could part ways with their feature back months after signing him to a lucrative extension.
It didn't happen and Johnson regained some of that '09 form last season (1,243 yards, 4.5 YPC, including a 94-yard touchdown sprint against the Jets). Whether this means that he'll sniff Dickerson's record is another matter.
His slow start last season brought out the critics (us included), but a successful running game is about more than having a franchise back (which is why it's silly to pay them a lot of money). Also critical: a quality offensive line, something Tennessee lacked at times in 2012.
Making Johnson's task tougher: The Titans could favor a two-back system next season, one that would lessen Johnson's workload in the red zone.
"Throughout all the years I've been in the league, when we get in the red-zone area they always put another guy in there," Johnson said via NFL.com. "I think people are making more than what it is. ... But if it comes down to a two-back system, I don't agree with that."
"I know I deserve them touches," he continued, "but at the end of the day, they're the coaches and I gotta go with whatever they're doing. I'm a team player, and if they feel like they can help us win by putting a bigger guy in there I'm not going to pout about it.
"But if it's a situation where it's a two-back system, I played in a two-back system in college (East Carolina) and I don't like it because you really can't get into a groove. That's something I wouldn't be happy with."
So that could throw a monkey wrench into everything. While Dickerson's record may not be realistic, a resurgent running game would still go a long way in helping one player: third-year quarterback Jake Locker.