The Oxford Dictionary describes the term elite as someone who is superior in terms of ability to the rest of a group. When Chris Johnson burst on to the NFL scene with a blistering 4.24 40 yard dash it was fair to say he was elite, but does this statement still hold true as we head towards the 2014 season?
2013 was seen by many as a ‘down’ year for CJ2K, as he amassed only 1,077 rushing yards, 11th in the NFL, but for just a 3.9 yard average. (The 1000 yard season streak is now up to six.) During the 2013 season Johnson only manage to gain more than 100 yards in two games and his season long run was a mere 30 yards. Add to this the fact Johnson ranked 45th out of a possible 47 for yards made after contact and you can begin to see why people doubt Johnson as a top tier running back, although some blame must be placed upon the Titans offensive line. It is fair to say that this level of production does not justify the elite level money ($8 million) the Titans paid him in 2013.
It is safe to suggest that Johnson may very well have been a victim of his own staggering success. He burst on to the pro scene and in just his second season he became only the 6th player to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season, zigzagging his way to 2006 yards and an NFL record for all-purpose yards in a single season. Anything less than a repeat of this magical season and he is deemed unfairly a failure.
Over the course of his career Johnson has been the league’s most durable running back having not missed a game in the last five seasons (a quite staggering feat) he has been required to carry the ball 1,742 times. Inevitably this workload will have caused wear and tear which in turn hampers effectiveness. No longer is Johnson the home run hitter he once was but he can still be effective in the right situation.
Having recently signed a 2-year deal with the New York Jets Johnson has the chance to reinvigorate his career. No longer required to be the every down back, that job is held by Chris Ivory, Johnson will be able to use his blistering pace to great effectiveness as defences tire in the latter part of a game.
In a recent press interview Johnson Stated:
“I think I can turn a bad thing (with) what people are saying into a good thing. For me, this gives me motivation, keeps me hungry and keeps a chip on my shoulder to prove those naysayers wrong.”
A highly motivated Johnson is a dangerous one, never before has he truly had to prove people wrong, but in a new system where he isn’t No.1 except him to shine and return of sorts to the CJ2K of old, just don’t expect another miracle season.
As for being a top tier running back that torch has been passed to the likes of Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, but on any given Sunday Johnson still has the speed to cause defenses nightmares!