Arizona Cardinals Add Running Back Chris Johnson
The Arizona Cardinals may have just solved their problem at running back. Per reports, the Cards have added veteran running back Chris Johnson after working him out on Monday afternoon.
He agreed to a one-year deal with Cardinals
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) August 17, 2015
The “he” Jay Glazer refers to in his Tweet is obviously Chris Johnson, who joins his third NFL team after spending the 2014 NFL season with the New York Jets and the previous six years with the Tennessee Titans. Johnson, 30 in September, has lost some of his appeal around the league over the past few years, but will always be known for his historic 2,000+ yard season in 2009.
Johnson has largely been pedestrian since that record-setting year, but he would be the first to say it hasn’t been all his fault. Few can blame him, either, as Tennessee has run through numerous quarterbacks (Kerry Collins, Vince Young and Jake Locker, to name a few) and have had shaky run-blocking on their offensive line for years.
Despite rarely having a competent quarterback under center and a less than ideal setting in front of him on the o-line, Johnson still did well enough to produce six consecutive 1,000+ yard campaigns while in Tennessee.
Johnson’s string of 1,000-yard seasons was snapped last year with the Jets, when Johnson spent the season sharing the rushing load with Chris Ivory. Johnson finished with just 663 yards on 155 carries and only scored one rushing touchdown.
While experts have soured on Johnson over the past few years, Johnson’s home run speed has seemingly never evaporated and the versatile running back has always remained a quality receiving option in the passing game. Johnson’s speed remained true in 2014 and helped him to a solid 4.3 yards per carry average, while his versatility allowed him to haul in at least 24 receptions for the seventh year in a row.
As good as Johnson has been in the past, there are clear doubts across the league as to whether or not he can still be a difference-maker. It’s possible he no longer has the ability to carry a running game, but with Andre Ellington struggling so badly in 2014 and David Johnson (drafted this year) not yet being able to take over lead rushing duties, the Cardinals made a bet that Johnson could help.
On paper, Chris Johnson is at the very worst solid depth for a team that desires to be more balanced, but to this point hasn’t found a reliable answer on the ground. The addition of Johnson allows Arizona to move forward with him as the lead rusher, and if that goes well, could allow Ellington to assume a specialist role on third downs and in passing situations. Considering Ellington struggles the most when it comes to short yardage situations and rushing in between the tackles, this seems like the ideal scenario.
Chris Johnson may not be what puts the Cardinals over the top, but it’s clear that head coach Bruce Arians and co. believe he at least could be. For a team that possesses a strong defense, a competent quarterback and explosive weapons in the passing game, Johnson could very well end up being the missing link between them and a run at a Super Bowl. With 35/1 odds to win it all this year even before adding Johnson, bettors now need to account for Johnson’s potential in the offense.
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