Calling Bull on Jeff Fisher's Explanation of Chris Johnson's Slow Start

In his Friday article, Peter King had a segment on Chris Johnson’s reduced production, where he has dropped from 5.6 to 3.8 ypc on the young season.  According to King, Fisher told him, “[i]t’s down mostly because he’s taking the short-yardage and goal-line carries this year.”  Let’s go ahead and call B.S. on that explanation. I would have accepted any of the following:
  1. The season’s young, it’s a small sample size, and one or two long runs can skew a yards per carry average;
  2. He’s played some tough defenses so far;
  3. The playcalling has been predictable and teams are loading up to stop Johnson;
  4. Fisher has given Johnson too many carries and he has not been running as effectively; or
  5. all of the above.

I cannot accept, though, that the difference is explained by the fact that he has all of a sudden started getting the short-yardage carries.  Johnson led the league last year in carries with 358.  He had 83% of the running back carries and score 14 of the 16 running back touchdowns and had the majority of goal line carries in 2009.  So far this year, he has 51 of his 94 carries on first down, gaining 205 yards (4.0 ypc).  That 205 total includes one 76 yard touchdown run against Oakland, and he has gained 4 or more yards on first down only 29% of the time this year, which is a really bad success rate on first down.  It’s early, though.  That probably would have been my answer.

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