Titans' Johnson finds mentor in Vikings' A.D.

Titans rookie running back Chris Johnson is taking the NFL by storm, similar to how Adrian Peterson came onto the scene for the Vikings last year. Johnson has sought and gotten advice from Peterson, and now their teams meet each other Sunday.

Chris Johnson leads the AFC in rushing after three weeks as a part-time player with 276 yards on 50 carries.

But Johnson isn't satisfied with that. He has his sights set on being a major impact player for the Tennessee Titans as a rookie.

And who does he point to as the example of who he wants to be like? None other than Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who set the league afire last year by finishing second in the NFL in rushing with 1,341 yards and winning Offensive Rookie off the Year honors.

The 3-0 Titans host Peterson and the Vikings Sunday at LP Field.

Johnson, who met Peterson in the offseason through Vikings receiver Aundrae Allison, who was Johnson's college teammate at East Carolina, made sure to pick Peterson's brain in the meeting for any sort of pointers he could use as Johnson entered his rookie season.

"I pretty much want to accomplish most of the things that Adrian Peterson accomplished last year, things such as Rookie of the Year, going to the Pro Bowl and things like that," Johnson said. "I know that's going to take a lot of work, so I'll just keep working hard.

"I met actually him down in Miami, and we talked. He gave me advice. He said no matter how I'm feeling, he told me to stay in the weight room and make sure I stay on my squats and stuff like that."

So how does Peterson feel about Johnson emulating him?

"That's one thing from one running back to another, you want to give good tips," Peterson said. "There are things you've been through, that I've been through my first year that can help him out going into his first year.

"It feels good. It makes me realize that I'm making a statement and getting myself out there to have younger guys looking up to me. He's definitely got all it takes. He's a strong guy, and (he has) the key ingredient; he does have the speed. I'm sure y'all have seen that displayed before. I think he's got the opportunity to be good."

Another thing Peterson told Johnson was that in order to maximize his potential, he had to become a complete running back, not just a ball carrier.

Right now, Johnson is splitting carries evenly with LenDale White (Johnson has 50, White 49 in three games). Peterson wound up with about a 60-40 split with Chester Taylor last year.

According to Johnson's teammates, he has the special qualities and the work ethic that could eventually make him the one in the Titans' one-two punch.

"Chris has a lot of ability, and it's not just running the ball. He's doing some good things in the passing game and picking up blitzes and that sort of things," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "It's making him do some good things all around, not just running the ball. He's come along real well. He's definitely as advanced a rookie as I've ever seen.

"No question, he's got the ability to do it. He's got the head, too. He's got the brains. He understands the game. We're throwing quite a bit at him. We use him a lot of different ways, and he's handled everything great so far."

Johnson will get perhaps the strongest test of his young NFL career against a Minnesota defense that is seventh in the NFL overall and third against the run.

As Johnson gets more experience, the Titans no doubt will be tempted to increase his workload if he keeps producing.

The Titans' history has been to ease rookie players into the lineup over the years and stick with veterans perhaps too long in that transition.

Star linebacker Keith Bulluck rode the bench for two years, playing mostly on special teams, while waiting his turn to crack the lineup.

But that philosophy may be slowly changing, as Titans coach Jeff Fisher made a big move a couple of weeks ago in announcing that Kerry Collins would be his starting quarterback over the face of the franchise Vince Young, even when Young returned from a knee injury.

Fisher and the Titans staff are realizing that loyalty must take a backseat to winning and productivity, and the way Johnson has played to date — while they must be careful not to overuse the 5-11, 197-pounder — merits that the carries should soon be weighted more in his direction.

SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. The Vikings lead this infrequent series, 7-3, and the Titans have not beaten Minnesota since 1992 when the team was still the Houston Oilers. The Vikings will be the second-to-last NFL team to play at LP Field. Their only previous trip to Nashville was in 1998 when the then-Tennessee Oilers played their home games at Vanderbilt.

NOTES

The Titans will make their second in-season lineup change this week as third-year man Stephen Tulloch will be elevated past Ryan Fowler as the team's starting middle linebacker.

Last week, Titans coach Jeff Fisher announced that he would stick with Kerry Collins at quarterback even when Vince Young returns from a sprained left knee.

Tulloch, a 2006 fourth-round choice from North Carolina State, has great instincts to the football and is more of an athletic playmaker than Fowler, who is regarded as a savvy technician. What has kept the more athletic Tulloch out of the lineup until now was that he would occasionally freelance too much and not play within the scheme all the time. That, of course, is fine as long as you're making the play on the ball carrier, but when a play occurs in your gap because of a wrong guess, it can result in a big gain for the opposing offense.

Still, the switch to Tulloch, who had a strong training camp and preseason, is likely well-timed because his speed and nose for the football can help the Titans try to contain Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson.

Fowler, who signed as a restricted free agent before the 2007 season, remains a valuable special teams contributor and will still be a part of the extra linebacker package the Titans like to use in certain situations.

  • DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, the emotional leader of the defensive line, was given most of Wednesday's practice off, but the Titans said he did not have any injury issues. Vanden Bosch is expected to play at full speed on Sunday.

  • CB Nick Harper, who left Sunday's game early with a quadriceps injury, was out of Wednesday's practice with a sore ankle that also cost him a day of practice last week. Eric King came off the bench and had two key plays on a goal-line stand last week against Houston. Harper is likely to play, but if the Titans have to turn to King there shouldn't be a vast drop-off.

  • FB Ahmard Hall "is playing outstanding football," says QB Kerry Collins. Hall, who had been primarily a blocker his first two seasons with the Titans actually has four carries for 10 yards, but more importantly, he has helped open holes as a lead blocker for Chris Johnson and LenDale White. In all, the Titans are averaging 156 yards a game on the ground.

  • WR Paul Williams remains a work in progress and likely won't be active anytime soon. The 2007 third-round pick was inactive for all 16 games last year, and has battled dropped passes throughout preseason and on the practice field. He was active for the 2008 season opener, but missed a tackle when he got out of his lane on the opening kickoff and was back to being inactive since that game.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 4 — Interceptions Cortland Finnegan has in three games. Finnegan took over last year for suspended Pacman Jones, who, for all his notoriety, had only four career picks for Tennessee.

    5.5 — Yards Titans rookie Chris Johnson is averaging per rush through three games this season.

    4 — Touchdowns for running back LenDale White, who is the power back complement to Johnson. White had just seven touchdowns all last season.

    87.5 — The Titans' red-zone touchdown percentage through three games. That number is first in the NFL, after Tennessee finished last in that category a year ago.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Scoring touchdowns wins football games. You can have all the 1,000-yard seasons and 100-yard rushing games you want, but if you ain't scoring, you ain't helping the team win." — RB LenDale White, on becoming a short-yardage and goal-line back.


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    ","mobileBody":" Chris Johnson leads the AFC in rushing after three weeks as a part-time player with 276 yards on 50 carries.

    But Johnson isn't satisfied with that. He has his sights set on being a major impact player for the Tennessee Titans as a rookie.

    And who does he point to as the example of who he wants to be like? None other than Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson, who set the league afire last year by finishing second in the NFL in rushing with 1,341 yards and winning Offensive Rookie off the Year honors.

    The 3-0 Titans host Peterson and the Vikings Sunday at LP Field.

    Johnson, who met Peterson in the offseason through Vikings receiver Aundrae Allison, who was Johnson's college teammate at East Carolina, made sure to pick Peterson's brain in the meeting for any sort of pointers he could use as Johnson entered his rookie season.

    \"I pretty much want to accomplish most of the things that Adrian Peterson accomplished last year, things such as Rookie of the Year, going to the Pro Bowl and things like that,\" Johnson said. \"I know that's going to take a lot of work, so I'll just keep working hard.

    \"I met actually him down in Miami, and we talked. He gave me advice. He said no matter how I'm feeling, he told me to stay in the weight room and make sure I stay on my squats and stuff like that.\"

    So how does Peterson feel about Johnson emulating him?

    \"That's one thing from one running back to another, you want to give good tips,\" Peterson said. \"There are things you've been through, that I've been through my first year that can help him out going into his first year.

    \"It feels good. It makes me realize that I'm making a statement and getting myself out there to have younger guys looking up to me. He's definitely got all it takes. He's a strong guy, and (he has) the key ingredient; he does have the speed. I'm sure y'all have seen that displayed before. I think he's got the opportunity to be good.\"

    Another thing Peterson told Johnson was that in order to maximize his potential, he had to become a complete running back, not just a ball carrier.

    Right now, Johnson is splitting carries evenly with LenDale White (Johnson has 50, White 49 in three games). Peterson wound up with about a 60-40 split with Chester Taylor last year.

    According to Johnson's teammates, he has the special qualities and the work ethic that could eventually make him the one in the Titans' one-two punch.

    \"Chris has a lot of ability, and it's not just running the ball. He's doing some good things in the passing game and picking up blitzes and that sort of things,\" quarterback Kerry Collins said. \"It's making him do some good things all around, not just running the ball. He's come along real well. He's definitely as advanced a rookie as I've ever seen.

    \"No question, he's got the ability to do it. He's got the head, too. He's got the brains. He understands the game. We're throwing quite a bit at him. We use him a lot of different ways, and he's handled everything great so far.\"

    Johnson will get perhaps the strongest test of his young NFL career against a Minnesota defense that is seventh in the NFL overall and third against the run.

    As Johnson gets more experience, the Titans no doubt will be tempted to increase his workload if he keeps producing.

    The Titans' history has been to ease rookie players into the lineup over the years and stick with veterans perhaps too long in that transition.

    Star linebacker Keith Bulluck rode the bench for two years, playing mostly on special teams, while waiting his turn to crack the lineup.

    But that philosophy may be slowly changing, as Titans coach Jeff Fisher made a big move a couple of weeks ago in announcing that Kerry Collins would be his starting quarterback over the face of the franchise Vince Young, even when Young returned from a knee injury.

    Fisher and the Titans staff are realizing that loyalty must take a backseat to winning and productivity, and the way Johnson has played to date — while they must be careful not to overuse the 5-11, 197-pounder — merits that the carries should soon be weighted more in his direction.

    SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. The Vikings lead this infrequent series, 7-3, and the Titans have not beaten Minnesota since 1992 when the team was still the Houston Oilers. The Vikings will be the second-to-last NFL team to play at LP Field. Their only previous trip to Nashville was in 1998 when the then-Tennessee Oilers played their home games at Vanderbilt.

    NOTES

    The Titans will make their second in-season lineup change this week as third-year man Stephen Tulloch will be elevated past Ryan Fowler as the team's starting middle linebacker.

    Last week, Titans coach Jeff Fisher announced that he would stick with Kerry Collins at quarterback even when Vince Young returns from a sprained left knee.

    Tulloch, a 2006 fourth-round choice from North Carolina State, has great instincts to the football and is more of an athletic playmaker than Fowler, who is regarded as a savvy technician. What has kept the more athletic Tulloch out of the lineup until now was that he would occasionally freelance too much and not play within the scheme all the time. That, of course, is fine as long as you're making the play on the ball carrier, but when a play occurs in your gap because of a wrong guess, it can result in a big gain for the opposing offense.

    Still, the switch to Tulloch, who had a strong training camp and preseason, is likely well-timed because his speed and nose for the football can help the Titans try to contain Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson.

    Fowler, who signed as a restricted free agent before the 2007 season, remains a valuable special teams contributor and will still be a part of the extra linebacker package the Titans like to use in certain situations.

  • DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, the emotional leader of the defensive line, was given most of Wednesday's practice off, but the Titans said he did not have any injury issues. Vanden Bosch is expected to play at full speed on Sunday.

  • CB Nick Harper, who left Sunday's game early with a quadriceps injury, was out of Wednesday's practice with a sore ankle that also cost him a day of practice last week. Eric King came off the bench and had two key plays on a goal-line stand last week against Houston. Harper is likely to play, but if the Titans have to turn to King there shouldn't be a vast drop-off.

  • FB Ahmard Hall \"is playing outstanding football,\" says QB Kerry Collins. Hall, who had been primarily a blocker his first two seasons with the Titans actually has four carries for 10 yards, but more importantly, he has helped open holes as a lead blocker for Chris Johnson and LenDale White. In all, the Titans are averaging 156 yards a game on the ground.

  • WR Paul Williams remains a work in progress and likely won't be active anytime soon. The 2007 third-round pick was inactive for all 16 games last year, and has battled dropped passes throughout preseason and on the practice field. He was active for the 2008 season opener, but missed a tackle when he got out of his lane on the opening kickoff and was back to being inactive since that game.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 4 — Interceptions Cortland Finnegan has in three games. Finnegan took over last year for suspended Pacman Jones, who, for all his notoriety, had only four career picks for Tennessee.

    5.5 — Yards Titans rookie Chris Johnson is averaging per rush through three games this season.

    4 — Touchdowns for running back LenDale White, who is the power back complement to Johnson. White had just seven touchdowns all last season.

    87.5 — The Titans' red-zone touchdown percentage through three games. That number is first in the NFL, after Tennessee finished last in that category a year ago.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: \"Scoring touchdowns wins football games. You can have all the 1,000-yard seasons and 100-yard rushing games you want, but if you ain't scoring, you ain't helping the team win.\" — RB LenDale White, on becoming a short-yardage and goal-line back.

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