Chris Johnson wants to run for 2,500 yards in 2010. History, however, says he can expect to get about half of that.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson entered the record books last season, becoming the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. During training camp this year, Johnson said he could get 2,500 yards “as long as I stay patient and keep working hard.”
So while his stock has arguably never been higher, Johnson may have paid a huge price in gaining 2,006 yards last season.
Of the five running backs before Johnson to top 2,000 yards, none even reached 1,500 the following season. Also, all five saw their yards per attempt drop by at least one yard the next season. Minus Terrell Davis’ 1999 season (he suffered a knee injury and played just four games), the average rushing yards by a player following a 2,000-yard season is 1,214.0
The last player to reach 2,000 yards before Johnson was Jamal Lewis in 2003. In 2004, Lewis served a two-game suspension, battled an ankle injury and finished with 1,006 yards in 12 games. His yards per carry dropped as well, from 5.3 to 4.3.
As noted earlier, using Davis’ numbers following his 1998 season isn’t exactly fair. Due to injuries, Davis played only 17 more games over three seasons after rushing for 2,008 yards in 1998.
Following his 2,053-yard campaign in 1997, Barry Sanders played all 16 games in 1998. He went from 6.1 yards per carry in ’97 to 4.3 in 1998. He also had just one 100-yard rushing game in the final six weeks of the season.
Eric Dickerson's 1984 sophomore season saw him set an NFL-record with 2,105 rushing yards. But a contract dispute kept him out of training camp as well as the first two games of 1985. He still finished with 1,234 yards in 14 games, but he averaged just 102.8 yards per game in 1985 compared to 131.6 in ’84.
O.J. Simpson was the first player in the NFL to rush for 2,000 yards (2,003 in 1973). That year he averaged 6.0 yards per carry -- only Sanders' 6.1 yards per carry in 1997 is higher among the 2,000-yard backs. In 1974, Simpson averaged 4.4 fewer carries per game and his yards per rush dropped by nearly two yards to 4.2. However, in 1975, "The Juice" bounced back and led the NFL with 1,817 yards and 16 touchdowns.