04 Apr 2014
The Titans made the inevitable official today, informing running back Chris Johnson he will be released. In a statement released by general manager Ruston Webster, they noted they tried to trade him but failed, unsurprisingly considering his scheduled $8 million salary.
As far as Johnson the runner, though his yards per carry dipped below 4.0, by our numbers 2013 was his best season since that 2000-yard campaign in 2009. He posted a career-best 46% success rate (31st among the 47 ranked RBs) and had a positive DVOA (1.5%, 22nd) for the first time since 2009.
I attribute the better results in 2013 to the improvement in the offensive line. To my eyes, Johnson has been generally the same back the past four seasons, minus the parts of 2011 where he did some unspeakably ineffective things I've never seen from an NFL running back.
He is a frustrating player, because if you get him to the third level, he is a very effective back. The problem is getting him there in the first place, because he won't do it on his own. He does not have the vision to be a great runner in a zone scheme, regularly cutting back into worse situations if his first read is to cut back. He does not have the sense of rhythm to be a great runner in a man scheme, regularly attacking plays either before the blocks develop or after they've started to fail. It was easy to see this watching him run counter as opposed to how Shonn Greene or Jackie Battle ran counter this past season. With his speed, he seems like he'd be a good third down back, but while he's improved in that area he still struggles a lot as a pass protector (most blown blocks among RBs in 2012, regularly removed on third downs for Battle in 2013). He also has not been an effective receiver outside of some good work in the screen game the second half of 2010.
Where does that fit and in what role, especially considering he turns 29 in September? The Bills, Jets, Dolphins, and Falcons reportedly had interest in him when he was on the trade block. My guess is signing Knowshon Moreno took the Dolphins out of the running. I'll be interested to see where he lands, and what kind of contract he gets.
13 comments, Last at 10 Apr 2014, 12:36am by The Ninjalectual
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?