New York Jets Smart To Sign Chris Johnson

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UPDATE: The New York Jets have signed Johnson to a 2 year contract

The New York Jets hosted running back Chris Johnson at the team facility yesterday. The general feeling is that a deal could be completed relatively soon. If the Jets do wrap up Johnson, it would be a smart addition to their backfield.

Yes, this is under the assumption that John Idzik will get the deal done at the “right price.” Considering the amount of time Johnson has already spent on the free agent market and the Jets spending habits under Idzik, it isn’t logical to foresee any type of outlandish deal.

So why be “in” a Johnson addition? Let’s start with the negatives. Since his historic 2009 season, Johnson has been inconsistent and the general level of his play seems to be trending downward. He has six full seasons under his belt with 250+ carries and at least 35 receptions. There is tread on his tires. His level of effort and attitude has been questionable at times. It would not be sensible to expect Johnson to carry the load for your offense on a weekly basis. He has too many negative runs and doesn’t hit the hole on inside runs enough to merit being a primary ball-carrier, week in and week out.

On the other hand, Johnson was banged up last season and still managed 1,077 rushing yards, 345 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns behind a shaky offensive line. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for 4 touchdowns last season for a little perspective. He has ran for over 1,000 yards in all six of his NFL seasons and missed exactly one game throughout his entire career. He is a flawed player in many ways but still explosive in the open field and a very legitimate weapon in the passing game. In 2012, he had 1,243 yards on 4.5 yards per carry, with 36 receptions. The Jets haven’t had a running back over 1,200 yards since 2009.

Part of embracing a Johnson signing is being blunt about what the Jets currently have at running back. Chris Ivory is an immensely talented runner who has the physicality and explosiveness to be a lead runner. However, he offers nothing in the passing game and is not durable. It is unreasonable to expect him to give the Jets 16 healthy games next season. Bilal Powell is a jack of all trades who he excels mostly as an inside runner but is competent in the passing game as well. He is a notch above being a JAG (just a guy), you don’t not bring in Chris Johnson because you have a runner with 1,155 career yards at 3.9 YPC with 5 total touchdowns.

The thought process behind adding Johnson is this: you are adding a playmaker to an offense short on them. You are relying on Marty Mornhinweg to design plays that will get him in space, particularly in the screen game. Seriously, when is the last time the Jets had a running back who did something like this on 3rd and 7? You aren’t asking Johnson to give you 20 touches per game, you are looking for 7-12 touches that optimize his skillset.

Similar to how people have incorrect conceptions about wide receiver positions, they seem have similar ones about running back. This isn’t Madden, where you have a WR1, WR2, FB, HB on every single play.

For example, this is one of the Mornhinweg’s favorite passing formations. The Jets ran this a ton last year, particularly on third downs. The running backs lined up in the wing spots were most frequently Tommy Bohanon and Bilal Powell. You are upgrading when you make those wings Chris Jonson and Bilal Powell. You now have two quality receiving halfbacks to use in your various formations and make your offense more difficult to prepare for.

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Don’t think of a Johnson as a traditional running back, think of him as a needed weapon to boost the Jets passing game and provide speed to the outside.

24 thoughts on “New York Jets Smart To Sign Chris Johnson

  1. Thunder and Lightening. Idzik looks like he’s going after Sidney Rice now. Idzik also has 12 draft picks! Where are all the clowns and haters? Oh yea hiding in their mother’s basement, creating more ridiculous screen names!

  2. I am amazed that Johnson signed, as I thought Idzik would require anyone he signed at this point in free agency to compete for a roster spot. I thought this would go the way of DeSean Jackson and DRC, where the Jets have internal discussions, a number is floated, and the player goes on to look for alternatives. Several possible explanations for the signing:

    1) Johnson had nowhere else to go and signed while before the Jets retracted their offer.
    2) Johnson was willing to accept a number Idzik thought was too good to pass up.
    3) Idzik’s approach is not deliberate, but offense-oriented; he thinks of need not by position, but by the side of the ball. He went out and got the best available offensive skill players (in a bad year for FA offensive talent). And he either missed on DeSean Jackson or was not willing to pay the price Jackson asked for.

    This move also puts Powell or maybe Bohanon on the chopping block. A new RB taken in the draft would challenge someone for a roster spot.

  3. The only RB this puts on the chopping block is Goodson, shouldn’t impact Powell at all.

  4. I agree Powell is NOT in danger. Goodson is probably a goner unless he has an amazing camp. He could be Johnson’s backup while Powell would be Ivory’s backup. If the Jets are going to rely on the run and pass very selectively (15 to 20 times a game) then keeping all 4 makes sense. Of course the draft could provide a player that makes Goodson expendable but the other 3 will make the team if healthy.

  5. Certainly prefer signing a guy who has proven to be a productive NFL back, then taking one with one of their first 5 picks.

    Frank, just to give you some ‘hater fodder’, I see zero reason to get excited about Sidney Rice. He had 1 outlier season, and has otherwise proven he can’t stay healthy, and when he does, he’s simply ordinary.

  6. This is a nice signing by Idzik that should add big plays to the offense while making the run game a team strength, potentially at least.

    KAsh, it seems likely that Johnson had nowhere else to go and & therefore he was willing to accept a number Idzik thought was appropriate considering the value he brings to the team (as judged by Idzik of course).

    It also seems likely that Idzik’s approach is deliberate, but instead of approaching the situation by identifying positions of need & going all in on the player(s) he targets to fill that need, he looks for players that he feels will bring value to the team at a price that he considers appropriate, & wishes to maintain the salary cap flexibility to acquire these players when they become available, not just during the first week or two of free agency.

  7. Lidman. Bringing Rice in at the right price is great for competition at the WR position. It’s not like we’re stacked there. Idzik should know him very well from his Seattle days and if he feels he can regain his form and has something left I’ll trust his opinion over yours any day!

    P.S. Looks like Idzik has done some impressive work trying to improve the offense. Just like Polian said a while ago when everyone was losing their heads there was plenty of time for Idzik to get the job done.

    http://nypost.com/2014/03/18/polian-plenty-of-time-to-improve-jets/

    Oh yea, I’ll trust Polian’s judgement over yours any day as well.

  8. I think it will be interesting to see how the Jets address the fullback and Tight End position in the draft. Blocking at these positions is more of a priority, I think everyone agrees that an upgrade over Bohnnan is necessary. Prosch, Copeland and Millard could supply that upgrade at Fullback. The Jets seem to be in love with Amaro at TE, but ASJ, Niklas, Fiedorowics seem to be better inline blockers

  9. Johnson has averaged 17 rush attempts/game over the last 3 seasons. That number will probably drop a little, but don’t be surprised to see him get 14-15 rushes and 3-4 pass targets per game–especially if (when) Ivory goes down with an injury.

  10. In case I was not clear enough, a new addition in the draft could bump Powell off the roster. Prior to signing CJ, Powell would have been safe, as you can split carries and duties between three backs. Ergo, signing CJ puts Powell in danger of being cut, if the Jets get a new RB in the draft.

  11. I don’t see cutting Powell for an unproven rookie happening. Don’t really see a RB being draft until maybe the 4th either. Powell is an effective player that can both run between and outside the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield.

  12. Lidman. Let me try for the 100th time, I don’t love or even like Idzik. I do however LOVE his approach which is what successful teams do according to experts like Polian! Whether he is successful is yet to be determined! We’ll find out if he has the required skills to implement the excellent strategy. Some people know exactly what needs to be done but are incapable of executing. Time will tell. I hope I don’t have to repeat myself for the 101st time!

    P.S. My name is not Frankie.

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  14. Question to the community: I have heard that CJ is an above average pass blocker. Does anybody have information about this?

  15. He is inconsistent in pass blocking and has fell off in recent years. Feel like he is capable but needs a kick in the ass, hopefully Rex and MM can provide that

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