Commentary

For Chris Johnson, 2010 equals 2500

It's not new math, just the Titans RB's way of motivating himself for record-breaking

Originally Published: August 10, 2010
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One season after he became the sixth player in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards rushing, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson believes he can shatter the league's single-season record held by Hall Of Famer Eric Dickerson.

Asked Tuesday what he has planned for an encore this season, Johnson said, "Basically just come out here this year, another year, and try to get those 2,500 yards -- make all my fantasy owners proud."

To which Titans quarterback Vince Young, seated to Johnson's immediate left, remarked, "Definitely, I believe him."

"Yeah, it's a lot," Johnson said. "But it's possible."

In 1984, Los Angeles Rams tailback Dickerson rushed for 2,105 yards, shattering O.J. Simpson's 1973 record of 2,003 yards.

In 2009, Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards. He also set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage with 2,509.

Those are some big numbers. But other big numbers will have to wait for the Titans' 2008 first-round draft pick.

When Tennessee restructured Johnson's contract last month, it ensured that his next new deal would have to wait until at least July 2011.

A little-known clause in NFL rules stipulates that player contracts can be reworked only once within a year. Thus, even though the two sides have continued to discuss a potential extension, Johnson's next big numbers will be the ones he racks up on the field.

Other observations from Titans camp:

• As Young stood outside the ESPN tour bus in Tennessee's suffocating heat, he sighed and said, "It's hotter than fish grease."

Nor does it figure to change anytime soon, including on opening day, Sunday, Sept. 12, when the Titans play host to the Oakland Raiders at noon CT. Tennessee is aware of it, and it is trying to take advantage of it.

The Titans plan to make the heat that much more stifling for the Raiders. They are bypassing their navy and light blue jerseys in favor of the white ones that rarely are worn in Tennessee, according to team officials. The idea is to make the Raiders wear their black jerseys in Tennessee's heat, at high noon, in what will be, if nothing else, a psychological advantage.

It's hot enough down here in Nashville. It will be even worse for the men in black.

• Tennessee might have more good, unheralded players than any other team in the league.

Left guard Leroy Harris, the former North Carolina State standout who will be in his first year as a full-time starter, will play his way into the Pro Bowl at some point soon. Harris has been waiting on the bench (he started one game at offensive tackle last season) and is drawing comparisons to some of the top offensive linemen in franchise history.

Defensive tackle Jason Jones, picked one round after the Titans drafted Johnson, has recovered from his shoulder injury and will be one of the top three-technique tackles in football.

Linebacker Gerald McRath is replacing Keith Bulluck -- a 10-year Titan now with the New York Giants. Even though McRath must serve a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, Tennessee is expecting its 2009 fourth-round pick to excel the way he did last season, when he had 38 tackles and an interception.

Outside of Tennessee, few know their names. Soon enough, football fans will.

• It seems like the Titans value intelligence more than other teams. They used their fourth-round pick on UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner, who had a 4.0 grade-point average in college. They used their sixth-round pick on Florida State safety Myron Rolle, a Rhodes Scholar with a 4.0 GPA. And then, as if that weren't enough, the Titans have two players from Brown, undrafted wide receiver Bobby Sewall and defensive tackle David Howard, a seventh-rounder.

• Don't be surprised if Titans seventh-round pick Marc Mariani becomes a fan favorite. Mariani played college football at Montana with Titans coach Jeff Fisher's son, Brandon. Coach Fisher got to see each of Mariani's games and saw enough to draft him. This summer, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Mariani has demonstrated the skills, smarts and versatility to make the Titans' roster. He is a poor man's Wes Welker, but Mariani might have the chance to shine in the same way he did at Montana.

•  When Young signed the ESPN tour bus, he put down a message befitting of this Titans franchise that consistently flies under the radar. Young autographed: "All we do is win."

•  Next up: Another overnight drive and a visit to Jacksonville Jaguars camp.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.