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Premium – The New York Jets were very fortunate last year at the tailback position.

Their two-headed monster – Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell – didn’t miss any games.

Generally, you need a lot of depth at tailback. It was a brutal position physically.

A few years ago, the Carolina Panthers, were down to their sixth running back, Nick Goings, after five other runners got hurt.

When the Jets played Oakland last year, every one of the Raiders tailbacks was out. EVERY ONE! And they started a fullback at tailback – Marcel Reese.

So the Jets now have some pretty darn good depth at tailback with Ivory, Powell, Alex Green, Mike Goodson and now Johnson.

And since you can’t expect them all to stay healthy at such a violent position, this depth should serve them well.

We will see how the roles hash out in time.

Johnson loves getting the rock a lot, so Marty Mornhinweg and Rex Ryan are going to have to make it clear – he’s not going to be the bell cow with the Jets. He’s going to play a lot, but not be the featured tailback.

And this needs to be handled, or it could be a problem. Check out what Ken Whisenhunt told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.

“Whisenhunt’s approach at running back will be different (than Mike Munchak),” Wyatt wrote recently. “He plans on distributing carries to a number of backs instead of relying on a workhorse. Johnson had said he wanted more touches, not fewer.”

Johnson is coming off meniscus surgery and will turn 29 in October. He should embrace a smaller workload. It could prolong his career.

But one important point on his past workload.

He has carried the ball 1,742 in the NFL. That is a lot of carries, especially for a 203-pound back.

But you have to consider his running strategy. He doesn’t run like Chris Ivory. He’s not a bucking bronco.

And some people have criticized him for not being that physical at times, but conversely, you could say he was being smart.

If there is clearly no hole, and you are a smaller back whose game is predicated on speed, what is the point in trying to run over people? So yes, he’s pretty much ended plays on his own at times, when clearly there was nowhere to run. So he isn’t a back who took a ton of flush hits.

At times, you live for another play. As Bill Parcells always says, “Know who you are.”

Johnson has done a pretty good job over the years of preserving himself, and not trying to be Jerome Bettis.

And here is another point.

People say he’s lost a step.

First of all, that is debatable.

True he didn’t break any really long runs last year, he was playing most of the season with a meniscus injury behind a bad line. Also, the Titans passing game wasn’t very good, so there were a lot of eight and nine in the box situations.

But here is the deal. The guy ran the fastest 40 in the history of the combine – 4.24. Let’s say he lost a step. He can afford to lose a step and still have amazing speed. If he now runs 4.34, he’s still one of the fastest backs in the league.

I like this signing.

Marty Mornhinweg loves throwing to the backs, and Johnson is a terrific receiver out of the backfield who is a threat to take one the distance every time he touches the ball.

And the money wasn’t crazy.

Why not?

April 16, 2014

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Dan Leberfeld
Dan Leberfeld
Publisher of Jets Confidential Magazine. Call 1-800-932-4557 (M-F, 12-4) to subscribe. Co-host of Press Coverage every Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from 11-2.

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