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Chris Johnson Easing into His Jets Roles

Posted Aug 6, 2014

Veteran Back Looking not for Numbers but for Comfort in Backfield as Preseason Begins

Chris Johnson's Jets experience has come at him in distinct layers.

When the celebrated running back came aboard, and all through the offseason, he was an observer as he rehabbed his knee, surgically repaired after last season.

When training camp began, he was getting the ball every other day as head coach Rex Ryan and head trainer John Mellody gave him "pitch count" days to continue to work his knee fully back under him.

At the Green & White practice on Saturday, he took a significant step forward in gaining 14 yards on five carries against full-speed tacklers.

"It’s my first time being in contact since last year β€” you know those butterflies," Johnson said. "Just going out there and wanting to test my knee out against full contact and getting tackled to the ground, I came up feeling good."

Next up is his first live tackling against defenders dressed in different colors β€” not to mention his debut in front of his new home fans β€” when the Jets and Colts tangle in their preseason opener at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night.

"I don't think of number of carries," he said about what he needs to get ready in a preseason. "I think pretty much it's just trying to get comfortable. Once you're in there, you get comfortable, you know your own body and you know when it's enough."

That's a fair point because CJ, despite being one of only two current backs with at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first six pro seasons, has never gotten a lot of summer touches. As a rookie with the Titans in 2008 he had 33 carries and seven receptions. In the last five preseasons he never had more than 28 carries or three receptions.

But one of the key points for anyone myopic enough to think Johnson is going downhill as a runner is to remember his quality as a receiver. His 272 receptions is tied for fourth-most among all NFL backs since 2008.

And he's being used in Jets practices as a receiver, not only out of the backfield but flexed wide on the line.

"Yeah, we practiced that stuff at Tennessee, but pretty much when the game came, we didn't do a lot of it," Johnson recalled. "But it seems like we'll be focusing on that around here. It's just another way for Marty [Mornhinweg] to get me in space, in the open field. With everything that he's got planned, I'm liking it already."

Don't expect to see a lot of Johnson galloping with receptions this preseason, but also don't be surprised if you see him getting a few balls thrown his way, starting as soon as Indianapolis.




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