The New York Jets were able to sign arguably the three best players at their respective positions in free agency this past offseason: Former Broncos WR Eric Decker, former Eagles QB Michael Vick, and former Titans RB Chris Johnson. Decker is in the prime of his career, coming off two productive seasons. Michael Vick was brought in as insurance for second year QB Geno Smith. Then, there’s former 2,000 yard rusher Chris Johnson…
CJ2K (or CJ1K, as i’ve taken to calling him) brings a credibility to the Jets offense that really hasn’t been there since future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson retired after 2011. He’s a name, but also an earned reputation from rushing for almost 8,000 yards and 50 TDs in his career. Even coming off a down year, he brings experience and a needed home run threat. We decided to look at his 2013 season and grade on the same scale that I graded the Jets running backs last year.
Week 1 @ Pittsburgh (21st ranked rush defense)
25 carries, 70 yards, 2.8 YPA, 0 TDs (C)
Analysis: Johnson was relatively ineffective against the Steelers front 7, as his longest rush was for 11 yards. Jackie Battle, also, poached a TD from CJ during the Titans’ first red zone trip of the day. CJ, also, didn’t catch a single pass.
Week 2 @ Houston (23rd ranked rush defense)
25 carries, 96 yards, 3.8 YPA, 0 TDs, 1 REC, 1 YD (B)
Analysis: CJ ran harder against the Texans than he did against the Steelers. He had three runs of 7 yards or more, and the Titans tried to get him involved in the passing game with 4 designed screens. These didn’t work. Johnson, also, showed more decisiveness; against the Steelers, Johnson spent alot of time dancing behind the line of scrimmage. Against Houston, there was none of that.
Week 3 vs San Diego (12th ranked rush defense)
19 carries, 90 yards, 4.7 YPA, 0 TDs, 1 REC, 1 YD (B+)
Analysis: CJ’s best game of the first quarter of the season came against the second best rush defense he faced. Despite not finding the end zone, CJ flashed explosiveness while repeatedly running away from defenders. This game, also, coincided with Jake Locker’s best game as a pro up until this point; teams were putting 8 in the box and daring Locker to beat them and this was the first time that he actually showed that he could. This opened up running lanes for CJ.
Week 4 vs Jets (3rd ranked rush defense)
15 carries, 21 yards, 1.4 YPA, 0 TDs, 2 REC, 10 YDS (F+)
Analysis: CJ’s worst game of the first quarter came against the best rush defense that he faced. The Jets front 7, as they did almost all year to opposing running backs, was able to stuff CJ repeatedly. The Jets made a concerted effort to ensure that Chris Johnson didn’t beat them, and they tried to make Locker beat them; it backfired, as the Jets got routed, but CJ did not do any damage against the Jets. He gets an F+ because he had two catches for 10 yards, and this was his first multiple reception game of the season.
First Quarter Stats: 84 carries, 277 YDS, 3.2 YPA, 0 TDs, 4 REC, 12 YDS, 3.0 YPC, 0 TDs
First Quarter Grade: D (1.0)
Week 5 vs Kansas City (22nd ranked rush defense)
10 carries, 17 yards, 1.7 YPA, 0 TDs, 4 REC, 63 YDS, 1 TD (D)
Analysis: CJ followed up his worst game running the football with another horrible game, and this time the opponent wasn’t to blame. What saved this game for Johnson was that it was the first game he was actually utilized in the passing game. He took a screen pass 49 yards for his first TD of the season, displaying the speed that had made him one of the best running backs in the league.
Week 6 @ Seattle (7th ranked rush defense)
12 carries, 33 yards, 2.8 YPA, 0 TDs, 3 REC, 21 YDS, 0 TD (D+)
Analysis: Johnson fared a little better against the Seahawks. but it was still a poor game. He did average 7 yards a reception, as the Titans tried to get their best offensive playmaker in space but the Seahawks were all over him. One thing to note; it appeared like Chris Johnson was running hesitant all game and didn’t display the speed he displayed against the Chiefs at any point in the Seattle game.
Week 7 vs SF (4th ranked rush defense)
9 carries, 39 yards, 4.3 YPC, 0 TDs, 4 REC, 71 YDS, 1 TD (B)
Analysis: This was actually one of Johnson’s better performances all season, because he took a screen pass in the 4th quarter and turned on the proverbial jets to take it to the house. He, also, ran the ball very well as he repeatedly got past the first wave of rushers to get 3-4 yards. The Titans fell behind early and had to abandon the run, but Johnson was very effective with the limited carries he did receive.
Week 9 @ St. Louis (9th ranked rush defense)
23 carries, 150 yards, 6.5 YPC, 2 TDs, 3 REC, 20 YDS, 6.7 YPC, 0 TDs (A)
Analysis: Following the bye week, and one of his better performances of the 2013 season, CJ1K followed that up with his best performance of the season. Chris Johnson was decisive with the football, showed a willingness to initiate contact that he displayed a little of against the 49ers, and he hit holes hard. He, also, did a good job of following his blockers. Both of his TD runs were from 10+ yards out, as the minute he hit the hole you noticed that he was trying to take it to the house. This was a standout game for him against a very stout Rams defense on the road.
Second Quarter Stats: 54 carries, 239 YDS, 4.4 YPC, 2 TDs, 14 REC, 175 YDS, 12.5 YPC, 2 TDs
Second Quarter Grade: B (3.0)
Week 10 vs Jacksonville (29th ranked rush defense)
12 carries, 30 YDS, 2.5 YPA, 0 TDs, 5 REC, 43 YDS, 8.6 YPC, 0 TDs (D)
Analysis: After putting together back to back good performances, Johnson had a terrible game running the football against a bad Jacksonville front 7. The offensive line opened up a few holes, but Johnson didn’t make the most of his opportunities. He did do very well in the passing game, as the Titans lined him up both in the slot and out wide with Kendall Wright in the slot. It was an interesting formation wrinkle that I actually think the Jets could utilize some of to get Johnson’s speed matched up with a DB. In any event, Johnson didn’t rush the ball well, but he was a weapon in the passing game and he was excellent in blitz pickup as well.
Week 11 vs Indianapolis (26th ranked rush defense)
17 carries, 86 YDS, 5.1 YPA, 2 TDs, 1 REC, -2 YDS, 0 TDs (B-)
Analysis: A good bounce back game from Johnson, as he ran all over the Colts front 7. Johnson took an early handoff and was able to take it 30 yards for a score, as he made 4 Colts defenders miss. He scored a second time in the first quarter, with the Titans in the red zone, and was able to get the Titans offense going. A very good game for Johnson, and his 3rd such game in the last 4 during this midseason stretch.
Week 12 @ Oakland (13th ranked rush defense)
20 carries, 73 YDS, 3.7 YPA, 0 TDs, 3 REC, 8 YDS, 2.7 YPC, 0 TDs (C+)
Analysis: Johnson’s yards per carry was low during this game, as he didn’t get it above 4 but his running set up alot of playaction passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Kendall Wright. Johnson, also, was able to pick up tough yards against the Raiders. There wasn’t much opportunity for big plays from him, as his longest run of the day was 12 yards, but he kept his legs moving and was able to pick up some key first downs on some down and short situations.
Week 13 @ Indianapolis (26th ranked rush defense)
18 carries, 69 YDS, 3.8 YPA, 0 TDs, 6 REC, 32 YDS, 5.3 YPC, 1 TD (B)
Analysis: Johnson’s 3rd straight efficient game, except this time against the Colts he burned them in the passing game. Chris Johnson still can be one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL in the screen game. It was evident this week by the fact that very few times did he have the designed amount of blockers in front of him during screens but was still able to make defenders miss. His TD catch was a shovel pass from Fitzpatrick, but other than that CJ had 5 receptions for 31 yards.
Third Quarter Stats:
67 carries, 258 YDS, 3.8 YPC, 2 TDs, 15 REC, 81 YDS, 5.4 YPC, 1 TD
Third Quarter Grade: C (2.0)
Week 14 @ Denver (7th ranked rush defense)
12 carries, 46 yards, 3.8 YPA, 1 TD, 2 REC, 9 YDS, 4.5 YPC, 0 TD (D)
Analysis: This was the first game where Shonn Greene’s carries were almost equal to Johnson, and Greene had the same amount of yards as Johnson. Johnson had a 23 yard reception wiped out due to a fumble, which was his second of the year. Johnson, like the game against the 49ers, did ok with the carries he got, but the fumble was a killer as the Titans were driving with a chance to take the lead. Johnson had a very impressive 18 yard run, but had 28 yards on 11 other carries. This was his first “bad” game since Week 10 against Jacksonville.
Week 15 vs Arizona (1st ranked rush defense)
13 carries, 40 YDS, 3.1 YPA, 0 TDs, 3 REC, 51 YDS, 17 YPC, 1 TD (C)
Analysis: After almost an even split with Shonn Greene the week before, this week 15 matchup saw Johnson receive almost all of the carries. He did very little with it against the best run defense in the NFL, as he was stopped behind the line of scrimmage 3 times. He did do well in blitz pickup, which while watching film I noticed was one of CJ’s underrated strengths. He’s a willing blocker, and showed throughout this season that he will engage linemen and linebackers alike. CJ’s receiving touchdown came with him lined up in the slot, as he took a slant from Fitzpatrick and took it 25 yards by outrunning the entire Cardinals secondary.
Week 16 @ Jacksonville (29th ranked rush defense)
22 carries, 90 YDS, 4.1 YPA, 0 TDs, 1 REC, 3 YDS, 3.0 YPC, 0 TDs (B+)
Analysis: Johnson had a horrible game against the Jaguars in their previous matchup, but he was able to fare much better against them this time. CJ, as the Titans were trying to get into the playoffs, ran with fury and vision and continued his second half surge. The difference with this game is that he was used as the finisher after Shonn Greene had worn the Jaguars defense down. Green had 91 yards on 19 carries as the Titans elected to run the ball over 40 times. This is especially interesting when you consider that the Jets may use CJ in the same vein, as Chris Ivory is used to weaken defenses during the game. Johnson had minimal impact in the passing game.
Week 17 vs Houston (23rd ranked rush defense)
27 carries, 127 YDS, 4.7 YPA, 1 TD, 3 REC, 14 YDS, 4.7 YPC, 0 TDs (A)
Analysis: CJ finished his season with a bang by putting together his second best game of the season. He had 3 runs of 10+ yards, including a TD from 11 yards out. He, also, had a 23 yard run where he was able to juke JJ Watt and cut up field for a big gain. Once again, after splitting carries with Greene the previous week, CJ received the majority of the carries and he delivered a very good performance. He was a non-factor in the passing game, although he did have one reception that went for 11 yards.
Fourth Quarter Stats:
74 carries, 303 YDS, 4.0 YPA, 2 TDs, 9 REC, 77 YDS, 8.5 YPC, 1 TD
Fourth Quarter Grade: C+ (2.5)
Total Grade: 2.1 (C)
Analysis: CJ struggled out of the gate, but had a very good second quarter as his yards per carry went up almost a yard and a half. It went back down by about half a yard in the third quarter before CJ ended the season strong. He was phenomenal in the passing game pretty much all season, as he was used in many different formations. He fumbled 3 times in 321 total touches, but two of those fumbles came in the last quarter of the season. CJ should prove to be a valuable asset in the passing game, and appears to be better suited to sharing the load, as opposed to being the primary ball carrier. The Jets would be wise to get CJ in space in the screen game and utilize him in blitz pickup.