AFC South All-22 Review: Titans' Chris Johnson to Challenge Colts Defense

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 26, 2012

Johnson needs to hit his holes against the Colts.
Johnson needs to hit his holes against the Colts.Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans square off in a Week 8 matchup vital to the slim playoff hopes of both teams.

One of the keys to the game will be the play of Chris Johnson. Though he got off to a slow start, he's caught fire in recent weeks and looks to continue his strong play against Indianapolis.

The Colts' run defense has left something to be desired for most of the season. They held a banged-up Trent Richardson in check but have given up at least 100 yards rushing in four of six games and more than 149 yards in half their games.

Just two weeks ago, the New York Jets trampled them to the tune of 252 yards on the ground.

A look at the tape shows just what kind of opportunities exist for Johnson against Indianapolis

The Colts can be dominated physically at the line of scrimmage. Take this 21-yard run by Shonn Greene.

There's no great trickery to this play. The Jets merely put a hat on every defender, thanks to the right guard pulling to block linebacker Jerrell Freeman and the tight end in motion taking out Kavell Connor.

The Colts interior linemen don't win any of their matchups, and neither linebacker sheds their blocks or gets any push to close the hole.

By the time Greene hits the hole, this is what it looks like.

Indianapolis, especially with Cory Redding hobbled, lacks the bulk inside to appropriately run their 3-4 scheme. The result is runner after runner carving up huge gains.

Maurice Jones-Drew had a back-backbreaking run against Indianapolis in Week 3, and there was nothing special on the play. The Jaguars simply knocked the Colts completely off the line.

Note all the players getting single blocked on this run. By the time the back hits the line of scrimmage (yellow), he has a lane several yards wide as not a single Colts managed to shed his blocker.

Johnson, for all his excellence, has never had outstanding success against the Colts. Whereas Greene and Jones-Drew are more straight line runners, Johnson tends to be a cut-back runner.

Matt Bowen of the National Football Post did an excellent job breaking down Johnson's long run against Buffalo. It's a case of Johnson making the right decisions on his cut-backs, something he did poorly early in the year.

This run in the second quarter went for 25 yards for Johnson. Again, we see the same thing as on the long run. Johnson is patient here, following his blockers, picking his way through the line for a long gain.

You can almost see in the still how he's waiting for the play to develop.

That patience is laudable, but against the Colts it leads to yards left on the field.

This play, believe it or not, is a two-yard gain against the Colts in Week 15 of 2011. Instead of charging through the massive, gaping hole in the line, Johnson dances, allowing Connor (who is getting blocked away from the play) to fight loose and take him out.

Against the Colts, Johnson will have to be more decisive than perhaps he's used to. If he is, there should be huge running lanes to exploit.