About a week ago, news broke that free agent running back Chris Johnson had inked a two-year deal with the New York Jets.
This signing threw the New York media into a tailspin, with everyone marveling over his decision and questioning whether or not he will be able to succeed as there have been mixed feelings about his productivity for the Jets in 2014.
Johnson’s critics will question his health (especially after his knee injury) and point out that his production has declined severely since his 2009 season, where he posted 2,006 rushing yards (along with 14 touchdowns). On the other hand, advocates of CJ2K will point out that he has never rushed for less than 1,000 yards in a season and that he has only missed one game in his entire career. So what can we really expect from Chris Johnson in 2014?
For starters, it is important to note that Johnson will be sharing time with teammate Chris Ivory. However, it’s also important to remember that Ivory is due to make only $1.75 million in 2014, Johnson is expected to make $4.5 million this season. It seems unlikely that the Jets would sign the three-time pro-bowler for more than double Ivory’s salary, to back-up Ivory. Expect a similar format to what Buffalo has when both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are healthy, with Spiller (or in our case, Johnson) being the primary back.
Last season, the Jets ran the ball 493 times with Ivory being responsible for 182 of those carries and Bilal Powell accumulating 176. With Chris Johnson’s arrival, we can expect Powell to drop out of the picture. This leaves Johnson and Ivory to split around 360 carries in 2014 if the numbers stay the same for the Jets’ top two running backs. Johnson is expected to be the premier back, but Ivory will likely be more heavily relied on in short yardage situations and will enter the game whenever Johnson needs rest. With that, anticipate Johnson’s carries to be around 200-220 and Chris Ivory’s range to be around 140-160, although these numbers will likely change if an injury occurs (we’re looking at you Ivory).
Last season, CJ2K averaged 3.9 yards per carry (YPC), the first time in his career his average dropped below 4.0. However, he should be given the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that he was running on a torn meniscus. The season before, he averaged 4.5 YPC. Hypothetically, if he were to repeat this number in 2014 with his projected number of carries, he is due for approximately 990 rushing yards, which would be super. However, with Ivory being severely injury prone, Johnson may be expected to take the full workload for a few games, allowing these numbers to increase.
Therefore, with the expectation that Ivory is used cautiously or gets hurt at some point during the season, Jets fans can expect Johnson to continue his streak of 1,000+ rushing yard seasons. Also, it’s safe to anticipate about a handful of touchdowns from Johnson. Last year, teammate Shonn Greene frequently took over when the Titans were past the 5-yard mark (similar to what we expect Ivory to do) and CJ2K still racked up 6 touchdowns.
However, numbers don’t take into account the chip on his shoulder or his “hungry” attitude, as teammate Eric Decker put it. Johnson will likely be fully healthy when the season starts, so expect him to be motivated and to have a bounce back season.
If health is a non-issue, the Johnson-Ivory combo could be one of the NFL’s best.