New York Jets Give Chris Johnson Fresh Start

By Luke Ewing
Chris Johnson
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets weren’t going to allow this free agent to slip through their grasp. Chris Johnson and Gang Green struck a two-year deal this Wednesday as the Jets continue to make strides in improving their offense. Chris Johnson is a durable home run threat with top end speed that will help the Jets’ offense get points on the board in 2014. The lightning quick CJ2K will be an excellent complement to the hard running Chris Ivory, which will certainly help keep opposing defenses off balance. Johnson is also an effective receiver out of the backfield, something that could prove to be invaluable to the still maturing QB Geno Smith who will benefit from having a pass-catching back like Johnson as a safety valve (an asset the Jets haven’t had since the LaDanian Tomlinson days).

The Jets certainly have other offensive needs that will need to be addressed at wide receiver and tight end, as very few considered running back as a priority or an area of need this offseason. But Chris Johnson all but fell into their laps this this month, and they made the right move pulling the trigger on the 28-year-old back. The Jets got solid production from the 1-2 punch of Ivory and Bilal Powell last year, but the addition of Chris Johnson in 2014 can’t be considered anything but an upgrade. New York’s backfield has been a relative “strength” in what has been a putrid offense in recent years. As a reminder, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson had two rushing touchdowns in 2013 — just one less than Ivory and one more than Powell.

Yes, the Jets need more help at receiver, TE and WR and still have work to do, but they will benefit from having a spark at running back, as well.

It’s true that Johnson’s production has declined in recent years. In his defense, Johnson did set the bar rather high in 2009 when he rushed for 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Johnson also had little help on offense in Tennessee, and had been unhappy there the last few seasons. He publicly disagreed with the team’s play calling and personnel decisions, and openly criticized how the coaching staff was utilizing him in their offense. None of these conditions are conducive to recreating the rare 2,000 yard season.

His paltry 3.9 yards a carry last season is concerning, but it’s important to note that Johnson played nearly all of 2013 with a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery this offseason. He’ll be getting a fresh start in New York, and I’d like to see what a healthy and happy Chris Johnson can do in 2014 before he’s declared a has-been. While few are anticipating Johnson to reach the 2,000 mark again next year, there is good reason to expect an uptick in production in 2014.

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