Former Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is now a New York Jet. Five years removed from his two-thousand yard season, Jets fans everywhere are now anxious to see what impact his presence will have on what has been an anemic offensive squad for far longer than any Jets fan wants to admit.
Johnson is 28 years old, has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his six professional seasons and is one of only seven men to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Despite the steady production, the Titans released Johnson to avoid paying him the $8 million he was due for the 2014 season.
Their loss, our gain….or is it?
Is Chris Johnson the answer the New York Jets have been waiting for?
Marty Mornhinweg certainly thinks so. While I will refrain from putting Johnson up on the same pedestal, I do believe Johnson is still an impact type player.
There is no doubt in my mind that Johnson represents a return to the “ground & pound” philosophy that garnered so much success for Rex Ryan’s crew back in 2009 and 2010. In both of those seasons the Jets made playoff runs that ended in disappointment with losses in the AFC Championship rounds. The Jets employed an extremely successful “ground & pound” approach riding on the backs of Thomas Jones in 2009 and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2010 to reach the Championship rounds.
With the “demotion” of Tomlinson in favor of Shonn Greene in 2011, the Jets have had nothing but question marks at the running back position ever since. Greene had his moments but never blossomed into the kind of ground threat the Jets so desperately needed in order to keep the often sputtering Mark Sanchez led offense in a position to succeed. Over the last 2 seasons, there has been a bit of a revolving door at the position as the Jets basically threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the problem while trying to find a winning combination.
Last season, the signing of Chris Ivory from the Saints gave hope of a return to running dominance. While it is true that Ivory had his best statistical year and the Jets rushing game was ranked 6th overall, it was painfully obvious that there was not enough consistency in the running game to bail out fledgling QB Geno Smith who had his own well documented struggles in 2013.
The combination of Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and fullback Tommy Bohanon in 2013 never posed a threat that opposing defenses took very seriously. Of course, it would be unfair not mention the fact that every single defense we faced knew that if they stopped the running game…there was no real passing game to worry about.
Be that as it may, it does not remove from the fact that the key to a successful 2014 campaign rests in the Jets ability to literally hit the ground running. The addition of Michael Vick at the QB position helps shore up a piece of the offense that has long been a question mark but the writing on the wall seems to say that second year man Geno Smith is the starter for this team in 2014. With that being the case, a solid running game is a must.
A healthy Chris Johnson, in conjunction with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, represents a return to the kind of ground attack this team was built around. While I hold no illusions that Johnson will bring us a 2,000+ season, I do envision a solid and productive season, barring injury, from the back.
“We’ve got a great defense. Those guys stop the opposing offense a lot. Any time you have a good defense like that and you can get a running game going and get some playmakers making plays on offense, it makes that team very tough to beat.” – Chris Johnson
I predict Johnson will gain at least 1,200 yards on the ground this season. In 6 total seasons in the NFL, Johnson has run for less than 1,200 yards only twice, in 2011 and 2013. I believe that the key to his success lies in his commitment to training this off-season. Johnson’s numbers have been slowly slipping the last couple years and I believe that the star back has been relying a little too much on his “natural” talents.
Johnson played nearly the entire 2013 season with a torn meniscus in the knee and will need to focus this off-season on rehabilitating his injury to get back to form.
Johnson has hit the glass ceiling faced by most “ageing” running backs. Only a full commitment to preparing for the coming season will get Johnson where he needs to be in order to have the type of football season both he and the Jets organization so desperately want and need. Fortunately, for us the Jets fan, Johnson’s release by the Titans may be the catalyst needed to propel him to the level of performance we crave.
Expect Johnson to play with a chip on his shoulder this coming season, as he will be determined to prove to the Titans, the Jets and the football world that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
|Chris Johnson – 2013 Stats|
Of course, only time will tell how great an impact the signing of Chris Johnson will have on the Jets 2014 season. I am hopeful for the best.