In the weeks leading up to the Jets 2014 Training Camp, we will take a position-by-position look at some of the key storylines to follow this summer.
The Jets didn't lack for big plays in the run game last season, finishing sixth overall in carries of 20+ yards with 14. But despite finishing sixth in the NFL in rushing at 134.9 yards per contest, points were hard to come by as the Green & White placed 29th in scoring while averaging just 18.1 per outing. So in free agency, the Jets went out and got themselves a true home run threat in Chris Johnson.
"He's a pretty fast dude. I thank John Idzik for bringing him in," said Jets assistant head coach/running backs coach Anthony Lynn. "We wanted explosion and he got us an explosive guy. It's our job to get him in space and get him in certain matchups and use him the right way. I'm sure we will, but we're glad he's here."
1. Conservative Approach with CJ: After playing the majority of last season with a torn meniscus, Johnson had surgery before the former Titan signed with New York's AFC representative. He didn't participate in team activities this spring, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Johnson still looked fast and good while being about 75% at mandatory minicamp. The Jets will not rush Johnson back and once he is 100%, do not be surprised at all if Johnson is on a pitch count early in camp.
2. Ivory More Than Power: Amongst all running backs with 100 carries, Chris Ivory led the NFL in yards after contact. The 6'0", 222-pounder, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Saints in 2013, set career highs with 833 rush yards and 182 rush attempts. Ivory, who ranked T3 with eight runs of 20+ yards, has the physicality to run you over and also the speed to beat defenders on the edge.
3. Powell Has No Weakness: The ball distribution amongst the backs will be scrutinized all year. Just like Chris Ivory, Biall Powell is also coming off his best season as a pro with 697 rush yards and 36 receptions. The 5'10", 204-pound Powell is an excellent blocker, and he and Johnson give the Jets attractive options in the pass game out of the backfield.
4. Johnson Gives Jets Another Gear: Coming off injury and after six full seasons of pounding in the NFL, CJ might not be as fast as he was at the 2008 NFL Combine when Johnson flew to a 4.24 in the 40-yard dash. But a healthy Johnson remains one of the fastest players in the league as he has produced 68 carries of 20+ yards in his career. And you wouldn't assume that Johnson will get anywhere close to the 290 carries he averaged per season in Tennessee, so the legs will be fresh.
A look at the 2014 Offseason: Jets Running Backs and Full Back
5. New Version of Ground & Pound: In addition to the talented trio, the Jets think FB Tommy Bohanon has the talent to develop into one of the better fullbacks in football and both Alex Green and Daryl Richardson have had productive stints in the league. The Green & White inarguably have one of the best RB groups in football.
"You don't finish in the Top 10 if you're not committed to the run, so we're still committed to the run," Lynn said. "We're going to run the football and when people try to take it away from us, we're going to take advantage of what they give us and we're going to go over their heads. So that's Ground & Pound."