In 2011, following two Pro Bowl seasons with a combined 25 touchdowns including a 2,000-yard season in 2009 that earned him NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors, Titans running back Chris Johnson skipped training camp and preseason in an attempt to receive a new contract. With just over a week before a regular season opener against the Jaguars, the Titans agreed to a four-year, $53.5 million contract with Johnson that made him the highest paid running back in the league.
Many pointed to the fact that he got paid as the reason for his dismal start in 2011, but there was certainly a problem with the formerly dominant running back. After the sixth game of the season, a game in which Johnson had just 18 yards rushing, reports surfaced that Johnson's conditioning was sub-par when he ended his holdout and signed a new contract.
While Johnson denied the reports, his improvement as the season went on, including his famed burst's return, served as evidence that he may not have been in top form at the beginning of the season. One year later Maurice Jones-Drew has returned to camp and there have been questions whether or not the Jaguars' Pro Bowler will have a similar fate.
Many have suggested that a similar season could be coming for MJD, yet ignore that Jones-Drew, recovering from a knee injury, missed all but one preseason game in 2011 and received only five carries in that game. Despite the inability to participate fully in training camp practices and the inability to go in the preseason, Jones-Drew performed very well in the regular season en route to becoming the league's leading rusher.
If you think Jones-Drew was sitting on the couch eating potato chips during his holdout, I'm positive that you're mistaken. Just as he has every offseason, Jones-Drew went back home to California during the summer to work out and the running back has never been one to show up for training camp out of shape.
The other significant difference between the two running backs is that Johnson got paid before the season began. While Johnson's motivation during the 2011 season was question, if there was ever a question regarding Jones-Drew's motivation, this would not be the season to do so.
Yes, he'll have to learn the terminology of the new playbook, but that presents a lesser challenge than finding success without the burst of a 100% healthy knee as he did in 2011. So should you expect a CJ2K-esque decline in production in 2012? I wouldn't count on it,