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Chris Johnson: Making the Most of Versatility


Even in a best case scenario for Geno Smith's development this season, he is not going to become Aaron Rodgers. He isn't the kind of guy who will be able to carry the entire team, sit back in the shotgun, and pick defenses apart for four quarters. Geno is going to need some help. Ideally the Jets would be able to provide him with a deep group of top tier targets. That isn't going to happen either. Don't get me wrong. The supporting cast is certainly improved, possibly by a long shot. You have a top twenty receiver in Eric Decker and then a wide array of characters ranging from pretty good to passable. There is no real gamebreaker in this bunch, though. The Jets will have to find other ways to compensate.

Chris Johnson is one of those players ranging from pretty good to passable. You might be thinking he's more than that. I'm here to tell you that you're likely in for a major disappointment if you are expecting that. Johnson's skills can, however, make him a useful part of this offense. He is a back with legitimate skills as a receiver. The Jets can make use of this versatility by splitting him wide and make life easier on Geno.

How would they do this? I hate to say it, but that evil team to the North helps to provide a blueprint. They made the concept of splitting a back out wide an integral part of their 28 point comeback against San Francisco two years ago.


That's Danny Woodhead at the top of your screen. Why couldn't I pick a less agonizing example? The Patriots split Woodhead wide a ton during their comeback, and it was just a great example of how this can help an offense.

The advantages this can provide are many.

  • If as in this case, a linebacker follows the back out wide, it tips off the quarterback that the defense is likely playing man coverage. This isn't a place where you typically want to send a linebacker to line up. There really isn't any explanation for him to go out there unless he's playing man to man.
  • Touching on something from the last bullet, it puts the linebacker in a position he is likely neither comfortable nor familiar playing, creating a favorable matchup.
  • It pulls a big guy away from the middle of the field, giving the quarterback clearer throwing lanes in front of him.
  • What if the defense leaves a regular cornerback outside? Well it is likely to be one of their best corners, allowing you to move a receiver...let's say Eric Decker into the slot where he can work against one or more of the other team's weakest cover guys.
  • The other team is going to have a difficult time subbing out a linebacker for an extra corner who will be stronger against the pass. They have to substitute against personnel. Johnson is a running back. They can't know whether or not he will line up wide. Sub a linebacker for a corner, and the defense becomes really vulnerable if the Jets come out in a regular formation with Johnson in the backfield running the ball.

There are a few creative things the Jets can cook up to help Geno out. This is definitely one of them. It sounds like Marty Mornhinweg is going to go to this well, and that's a smart way to utilize the versatility of one of his players.