Why would anyone be under the impression that Chris Johnson can save the New York Jets?
In the four years since Johnson’s historic 2009 campaign, he’s been been ordinary. He’s averaging just 4.2 yards per attempt, which is pretty much exactly the league average. That’s one spot above Willis McGahee and one below Knowshon Moreno. He hasn’t had more than six rushing touchdowns in a season since 2010 and is coming off his worst statistical season yet with only 1,422 yards from scrimmage and 3.9 yards per carry.
He’ll also turn 29 early this year and has little tread left on his tires. So while his $4 million salary indicates the Jets expect Johnson to carry the load as a stud back, history and precedents indicate that’s a long shot.
Don’t be surprised if Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, who are younger and fresher and who combined for over 1,500 yards in 2013, end up performing just as well as Johnson, which could make things awkward considering that both will make less than $1.5 million.
That doesn’t mean Johnson isn’t a worthwhile addition. He’s incredibly durable for a running back in this day and age, having missed only one game in six seasons. And he’s been relatively consistent, with six straight 1,000-yard campaigns. The home-run potential still exists, as he had five 20-yard runs in 2013. But that total has dropped each of the past four years from 22 to 13 to 11 to eight to five.
The point is that he’s nothing more than a role player. Overpaying players like that isn’t back-breaking, so the Jets aren’t necessarily making a mistake. But if you’re under the impression Johnson will put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers while carrying this franchise forward despite a lack of a quarterback and wide receivers, be prepared to be disappointed.