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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Johnson: Heralded Titan rookie makes big splash

Monday, August 11, 2008

Titan rookie running back Chris Johnson takes off for a gain with help from a big block by center Leroy Harris (64) on Rams linebacker Tim McGarigle.
(T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)
Are the Tennessee Titans for real?

That's the big question after an impressive 34-13 win over the St. Louis Rams in their preseason opener Saturday night at L.P. Field. The Titans really excelled in all phases of the game and at first glance, their rookie class looks to be successful.

Much-talked about, but yet unproven, rookie running back Chris Johnson made the Titan front office staff look like geniuses after his performance Saturday night. Tennessee's first-round draft pick rushed for 77 yards on six carries, including a 66-yarder for a touchdown in the first half.

Johnson has blazing speed: 4.24 in the 40-yard dash. That time is fastest in the NFL Scouting Combine in the last 15 years and is believed by many to be the fastest ever electronically timed 40-yard dash in the history of the combine.

News of Johnson's speed and talent is bound to be spreading around the league.

"Their (the Rams) staff was talking about him after the practice sessions," Titan coach Jeff Fisher said. "I'm sure that was their worst nightmare. That's why he's here. It's nice to have that kind of talent as a weapon on offense. I think when he gets the ball in his hands in the open field he always has a chance (to score)."

On the defensive side of the ball, rookie lineman Jason Jones got the start and made the most of his opportunity.

Jones (6-5, 275) was Tennessee's second-round draft pick and the 54th overall. He made a huge hit for a 3-yard loss against the Rams and looks to have a bright future and make the Titan defensive line even better.

"Jason (Jones) did a nice job," Fisher said. "He had a really solid week of practice. It appears that he is going to be able to help in the rotation up front at the tackle spot. It's early, but all signs indicate that there will be no dropoff when we start rotating tackles."

The Titan defense looked to be in mid-season form and the return of defensive end Jevon Kearse looks to be a good off-season move by the front office as well.

Offensively, the running game was unstoppable.

The Titans rushed for 340 yards against the St. Louis defense with seven different players carrying the football.

Returning starting running back LenDale White was very impressive with 33 yards on six carries, but the crowd favorite was unknown Quinton Ganther, who led all rushers with 115 yards on eight carries.

The question is still out on Vince Young and the Titan passing game, but free-agent pickup tight-end Alge Crumpler is going to help that cause.

At first glance, this season looks to be one to anticipate. The defense should be dominant and the offense adequate with a good running game.

Perhaps All-Pro linebacker Keith Bulluck said it best.

"This is our 10-year anniversary, and remember what happened in that first year."

Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer. He can be contacted at gjohnson@t-g.com.

Gary Johnson
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