RB Chris Johnson, who was recently released by the Tennessee Titans, is in search of a new organization to call home. While the former rushing champion would appear to have some gas left in the tank on paper, teams should be leery to take a chance on him.
If you look at Johnson’s stats alone, one would think that he is still worthy of being a No. 1 back on someone’s roster. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards in six straight seasons and is the only player to do that in the NFL. He’s accumulated 7,965 yards during that time and scored 50 rushing touchdowns.
However, looking deeper at those numbers, Johnson isn’t as consistent as it would appear. In fact, his performance compares to that of a home run hitter in baseball who has trouble making contact consistently. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson has recorded 110 breakaway carries (second to only Adrian Peterson) for 3,189 yards since 2008. That is an average of 28.9 yards per carry. While this is impressive, it’s evidence of Johnson’s hit-or-miss style of play.
On his other 1632 career rushes, he has gained 4506 yards for an average of 2.7 yards per carry. That means just 6.3 percent of his total career carries have accounted for 39.8 percent of his rushing yards.
In addition to his inconsistent performance, Johnson’s totals have been in decline. His breakaway runs (which are the strength of his game) hit an all-time low in 2013. He had 14 breakaway rushes for 271 yards, which is an average of 19.4 yards per carry. It was the first time in his career that his breakaway average was below 20 yards per run. Taking those carries away, he ran the ball 265 times for 806 yards (3.0 yards per carry).
With the strength of Johnson’s game becoming less and less of a threat, any team who is willing to take a chance on him should do so by employing a timeshare situation with another running back. Johnson could serve as a change-of-pace runner or someone who touches the ball 10-15 times a game. He still excels as a receiver and has only had less than 40 receptions once in six seasons.
It’s time to be realistic with what Johnson is in 2014, because if anyone is expecting the 2,000-yard rusher from 2009, they are going to be extremely disappointed.