Just two years ago, Chris Johnson was arguably the best back in football. He has held out of training camps and petitioned to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. Well this year Chris Johnson got his wish. He was rewarded with a lucrative contract for his position with a lot of guaranteed money. However Johnson has not shown up to play. Well in body, but not spiritually.
Johnson looks so uninspired playing football this year. Despite his lack of productivity, the Titans are winning games. But things would be so much easier if he were his usual explosive step. I think I summed it up best when I wrote this piece earlier in the year. From what I have seen in my lifetime as a player, coach, and fan, guys who get paid in the off-season or during hold outs usually never perform well into that contract. The guys who get paid mid season while they are performing well; usually continue to perform well because they are prepared for the season.
Johnson is still a dynamic player but he is reliant on speed, and there lies the problem. In a system that puts him closer to the line of scrimmage he will not have as much time to make the necessary moves to free himself and be quick out of the cut. Also the lack of a mobile quarterback may also be hurting him as the backside cutting lanes will have closed quicker as there is not threat of the quarterback boot.
You can argue all you want, but Johnson was always more productive when Vince Young was in the lineup. Having a mobile quarterback changes the game for the runner. Look at what LeSean McCoy is doing in Philadelphia. Most of that is because of the fear of the boot. Watch the backside end on every play run straight to Vick. This creates cutting lanes for the runner to make them pay for not honoring their gap responsibility.
All that being said, one thing is for sure, Johnson isn’t looking like the best back in the game. In fact he doesn’t even look like the best back on his team as Jevon Ringer has outplayed him for most of the season.
Johnson will work his way back to being elite because that is what good backs do, but he may have affected how future runners get paid. Guys like Matt Forte and Fred Jackson will both be affected by the Johnson results after being paid. Franchise tags will probably be used on these guys and they will lose a little money in the long run because they will be a little older. It’s not really fair, but it’s the way this league works.
My suggestion is that he gets a little stronger... It's hard to run with then fat pockets and all those diamonds. That type of cash can turn a 4.2 into a 4.5 real quick.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!