Chris Johnson can still make an impact

The Cardinals appear to be closing in on signing Chris Johnson. Kevin Connaghan explains what that would be a smart move.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Chris Johnson can still make an impact

It’s been six years since Chris Johnson led the league in rushing. His 2,006-yard season came in the second of his career, earning him the CJ2K moniker. That was the high-water mark for Johnson, and his career is in a very different place now, with ESPN reporting a one-year contract offer as injury insurance for the Cardinals.

Can he provide any value to Arizona? Surprisingly enough, we think he can.

Johnson has actually rarely graded out well for us – that record-breaking 2009 season being the exception – but there were signs in his performance last season that indicated he can perform well in a more limited role.

Johnson’s time in Tennessee can be neatly divided in half based on his production rates. In his first three seasons (2008-2010) he averaged 2.97 yards after contact per rushing attempt, and on average forced one missed tackle for every 7.5 touches. From 2011 to 2013, Johnson averaged just 1.99 yards after contact, and forced one missed tackle for every 10.1 touches. He could still take it to the house on the occasional breakaway run, but on a per-touch basis he was much less dynamic, which ultimately led the Titans to look elsewhere.

As a New York Jet in 2014, Johnson split snaps in a struggling offense — not exactly ideal for productivity. His career-low raw numbers bear that out: 663 rushing yards, 155 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

On a per touch basis. however, things look quite different. Johnson’s 2.61 yards after contact (tied for 11th in the league), and average of one missed tackle for every 8.1 touches bear closer resemblance to the first half of his Titans career than the second half of it. That’s good enough to suggest that Johnson still has something to offer the Cardinals or any other team that shows interest in him.

| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

  • MaineSkin

    Ellington should be shaking in his spikes. How about Terron Ward?