Chris Johnson has provided one of the best stories of the 2015 NFL season.
After being involved in a drive-by shooting in the offseason that killed his friend, Johnson’s career was very much in doubt. The Arizona Cardinals, needing some depth in a running back group that was besieged by hamstring injuries during training camp, signed Johnson to an incentive-laden one-year deal in August.
All the 30-year-old back has done is help revitalize what has been a dormant Cardinals running game. Johnson ranks third in the league with 676 yards and he’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry for first-place Arizona heading into their Week 10 showdown in Seattle against the Seahawks.
You’d think that kind of first-half performance would garner praise instead of criticism. But the folks over at Pro Football Focus don’t feel that way.
Bryson Vesnaver penned a piece naming the lowest-rated player at each position so far this season, including Johnson at running back.
Johnson has long been someone that puts up the stats but has never graded well, and there are a few reasons for that. It’s easy to run when your O-line is creating holes the size of three people. Currently, the Cardinals have our fourth-best offensive line in terms of run blocking. Johnson’s elusive rating is a mere 40.2, as he’s broken just 20 tackles on 146 touches.
On top of that, the Cardinals have one of the most dangerous passing games in the league. So, when you’ve got a really strong offensive line, and a passing game defenses need to focus on, you’re going to get some running lanes. But despite all the yards, Johnson just hasn’t done enough on his own to show he can succeed without the perfect offense around him.
The site has Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell rated as the top back in the first half. Bell is a great back, but missed the first two games of the season due to suspension and suffered a devastating knee injury in Week 8 that will keep him out the remainder of the year.
If you’re confused by this ranking (and you should be), consult PFF’s grading scale broken down.