The Indianapolis Colts' run defense has been more of a picket fence than a stone wall thus far this season. Through six games, the Colts are giving up over 140 yards per game on the ground, seventh worst in the NFL. Their 4.8 yards per carry allowed is fifth worst.
It's not like the Colts have been facing the NFL's dregs, however. Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Forte are all among the league's top 20 in yards per carry thus far. Neither Cedric Benson or Trent Richardson gave the Colts much trouble. The only back that really ran all over the Colts was the surprising Shonn Greene of the New York Jets, who did so facing an injury depleted Colts' front seven.
All of those backs, however, are the kinds of backs who succeed by pounding opposing defensive lines, wearing them out until a big gap eventually opens. This week against the Tennessee Titans, the Colts will see a different kind of back in Chris Johnson.
The Colts are very familiar with Johnson, having faced him as a divisional foe every year. During his career, the Colts have handled Johnson fairly well. He's averaging just 3.7 yards per carry in seven games and has scored only two touchdowns. For his career, Johnson is averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
Johnson isn't the kind of back who will pound the opponent 25 times a game. He's the kind of back with explosive quickness that demands the defense pay attention to their responsibilities on every carry. If they don't, Johnson can take it to the end zone.
Johnson struggled last season after signing a rich new contract and began this season having troubles. Three of his last four games, however, Johnson has exploded, averaging nearly six yards per touch. Last week in Buffalo, Johnson averaged over 10 yards per carry, gaining 195 yards and scoring twice in the Titans' victory.
Colts safety Antoine Bethea is well aware of what Johnson can do with the ball in his hands:
“He’s that type of back that when he gets the ball, he can take it to the house. If we can piggy back off last week, everybody plays gap sound, 11 hats to the ball, hit, tackle, we’ll be fine."
Last week's effort against Trent Richardson and Montario Hardesty of the Browns was without a doubt the best performance against the run the Colts have had all season. They held the Browns to only 55 yards rushing on 17 carries, a 3.2 yard average.
If the Colts can put up similar numbers in Tennessee that will put the game in the hands of Jake Locker, who will likely be returning to the starting lineup this week after injury. The Colts have to like their chances for their first road victory if that can happen.
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