Chris Johnson is a New York Jet. No longer the CJ2K of yesteryear (2009), many are left wondering what Johnson’s role with the team will be. While he may have lost a step, Johnson is still one of the most talented and durable players in the league. He should have a role with the Jets in passing situations, in the screen game, in pass protection, and as a change of pace back.
While Chris Johnson may not be known for his hands, he has been a productive pass catcher during his time in the league. He has amassed 272 receptions, for 2,003 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per reception, and eight touchdowns. Need proof? Check out what he does on this broken play:
Once in the open field, Johnson is one of the most dangerous backs in the league. The best way to get him there? The screen game. A productive screen game has been absent from the Jets playbook for what seems like ages. Some improvements were made in 2013 with Mornhinweg in the fold and Geno Smith replacing the screen-aphobic Mark Sanchez. However, with Goodson out for most of the season, the team lacked a player that could make hay out of these opportunities.
In Tennessee, Johnson’s hands and exceptional speed were utilized to create numerous chunk plays for the Titans. Though his lateral agility has declined in recent years, his vision and straight-line speed remain. All three are vital to effective screen players but two of three are still more than any other back on the roster can claim. Watch here as the offensive line seals, the center pulls, and CJ gets to work:
Yes, his teammates did a heck of a job blocking down field, but Johnson displays speed and vision in the open field. On this next play against the Superbowl Champion Seahawks, the Titans set up a quick screen to Johnson to a similar effect:
With Mike Goodson suffering from injuries and facing an impending legal battle, the need for speed and big play ability in the backfield is at an all time high.
Johnson is very underrated in pass protection, he is adequate at worst. Last year, under new Titans RB coach Sylvester Croom, Johnson’s tenacity and physicality in pass pro improved markedly. Bilal Powell still has an edge on him in that department but the Johnson’s pass catching ability should get him on the field for passing plays. Take a look at Johnson’s protection on this game winning drive against the Chargers. Here, Johnson stuns Louis Castillo (#93) at the line:
Here, Johnson stops the 300 pound Kendall Reyes (#91) in his tracks.
Finally, on the game winning pass, Johnson takes pass rusher Reggie Walker (#52) out of the play.
Change of Pace:
In case you missed it, Chris Johnson is also a pretty talented runner. His abilities are best suited to outside runs and pitches. Once he turns the corner on a stretch play he is a handful.
However, he is not limited to outside the hashes. Johnson has excellent vision and can make hay up the gut.
His achilles heel appears to be the desire for the big play. Johnson will often pass on an obvious hole and leave yards on the field.
Johnson will have a pretty broad role with the New York Jets. He will most likely be the team’s go-to back on third downs and should see significant work spelling Chris Ivory. Ivory is the more talented runner at this point in their respective careers but rotating Johnson in could help keep the injury prone back healthy. It is up to the offensive coaching staff to properly manage snaps and playing time. It is important to get your best players in the ideal situations without interrupting their rhythm or momentum.