Expectations for Chris Johnson, Part Three

In Parts One and Two of this series, we focused on Chris Johnson’s rushing yards, how they compared to the yards of other league-leading rushers, and how those backs fared in the following five years.
 
Yards from scrimmage will now be added to this exercise and we’ll see how CJ’s numbers compare to other top backs and their production in their first two years in the league. You’d expect CJ’s numbers to look pretty good due to his yards from scrimmage record last year and they do. 

    
Chris Johnson photo by Andrew Strickert for Total TitansI’m hoping CJ will have approximately the same amount of yards from scrimmage this year and about the same amount of touches but with less carries and more receptions. CJ came pretty close to Football Outsider’s “Curse of 370″ carries last season and that’s something which I’ll write about in another article. For the time being, I’m simply looking at how CJ’s first two years stack up against the best running backs of the past, especially in yards from scrimmage.
   
Other things that will now be addressed are yards per game, per attempt and per touch. Besides the obvious benefits of those stats, they also allow us to make comparisons to the top backs who played before the 16-game regular season was implemented in 1978. It also allows comparisons to backs who played more recently but whose stats per season aren’t as good due to missed games because of injuries, the 1982 strike season, et al.
  
There were three special backs who were not included in the previous installments — Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. They, and other greats, are included here. Brown and Payton are arguably the best backs who ever played the game. Sayers, who might have been included in that conversation if not for a premature career-ending knee injury, ranked first in one category and third in another we’ll look at.
  
Criteria for inclusion in this part are backs who accomplished one of the following:
  • Won a rushing title since 1978 (same as before)
  • Rushed for 2,000 yards in their first two seasons
  • Rushed for 10,000 yards in their career
I believe you’ll agree it’s a pretty impressive group, which includes three types of players — those good for one year (rushing title), two years (2,000 yards rushing) or a career (10,000 yards). Obviously, quite a few players met more than one of the criteria.
  
CJ’s stats are in blue. Stats for #1 rankings are in red. The names of Hall of Fame backs are in boldface.
  
RUNNING BACK PRODUCTION, FIRST TWO YEARS
Rushing Yards/ Yards/ Yds from Yds from YdsfSc
Player Yards Rank Game Rank Carry Rank Scrmmg Rank Scr/Gm Rank /Touch Rank
Eric Dickerson 3,913 1 122.3 1 5.09 7 4,456 1 139.3 1 5.30 10
Edgerrin James 3,262 2 101.9 6 4.31 24 4,452 2 138.8 2 5.04 16
Chris Johnson 3,234 3 104.3 3 5.31 4 3,997 3 128.9 4 5.69 4
Earl Campbell 3,147 4 101.5 7 4.70 10 3,289 13 106.1 17 4.71 27
Adrian Peterson 3,101 5 103.4 4 5.16 6 3,494 9 116.5 7 5.45 8
Clinton Portis 3,099 6 106.9 2 5.50 1 3,777 5 130.2 3 5.96 2
Ottis Anderson 2,957 7 92.4 9 4.68 12 3,573 7 111.7 10 5.04 17
LaDainian Tomlinson 2,919 8 91.2 11 4.11 28 3,775 6 118.0 6 4.45 33
Barry Sanders 2,774 9 89.5 12 5.19 5 3,536 8 114.1 8 5.94 3
Eddie George 2,767 10 86.5 14 4.00 32 2,993 18 93.5 25 4.15 39
Billy Sims 2,740 11 91.3 10 4.50 17 3,812 4 127.1 5 5.54 5
Jamal Lewis 2,691 12 84.1 16 4.36 21 3,429 10 107.2 15 4.96 20
Terrell Davis 2,655 13 88.5 13 4.56 16 3,332 12 111.1 11 5.00 19
Curtis Martin 2,639 14 82.5 17 3.86 35 3,233 14 101.0 19 4.25 38
Emmitt Smith 2,500 15 78.1 19 4.13 27 2,986 20 93.3 27 4.40 34
Jim Brown 2,469 16 102.9 5 5.38 2 2,662 26 110.9 12 5.42 9
Jerome Bettis 2,454 17 76.7 21 4.00 31 2,991 19 93.5 26 4.46 32
Marshall Faulk 2,360 18 73.8 24 3.91 34 3,357 11 104.9 18 4.72 26
Tony Dorsett 2,332 19 77.7 20 4.68 11 2,983 21 99.4 21 5.29 11
Corey Dillon 2,259 20 72.9 25 4.56 15 2,696 24 87.0 31 4.90 22
George Rogers 2,209 21 100.4 8 4.42 19 2,356 30 107.1 16 4.53 30
Matt Forte 2,167 22 67.7 30 3.78 36 3,115 15 97.3 23 4.49 31
Thurman Thomas 2,125 23 68.5 28 4.21 26 3,002 17 96.8 24 5.15 13
Gale Sayers 2,098 24 74.9 23 5.31 3 3,052 16 109.0 13 6.66 1
Walter Payton 2,069 25 76.6 22 4.08 29 2,431 29 90.0 28 4.38 35
Warrick Dunn 2,004 26 62.6 33 4.27 25 2,810 22 87.8 30 5.09 14
Ricky Watters 1,963 27 72.7 26 4.74 9 2,694 25 99.8 20 5.52 6
Fred Taylor 1,955 28 78.2 18 4.62 14 2,459 28 98.4 22 5.16 12
Ricky Williams 1,884 29 85.6 15 3.76 37 2,465 27 112.0 9 4.30 37
Franco Harris 1,753 30 67.4 31 4.66 13 2,002 33 77.0 34 4.92 21
John Riggins 1,713 31 65.9 32 4.43 18 2,174 31 83.6 32 4.90 23
Marcus Allen 1,711 32 68.4 29 4.02 30 2,702 23 108.1 14 5.08 15
Shaun Alexander 1,631 33 51.0 36 4.37 20 2,015 32 63.0 36 4.77 25
Freeman McNeil 1,409 34 70.5 27 4.89 8 1,767 34 88.4 29 5.49 7
O.J. Simpson 1,185 35 56.4 34 3.94 33 1,667 35 79.4 33 4.89 24
Christian Okoye 1,133 36 54.0 35 4.32 23 1,353 36 64.4 35 4.60 28
Priest Holmes 1,008 37 43.8 37 4.33 22 1,268 38 55.1 37 4.59 29
Tiki Barber 677 38 24.2 38 3.60 38 1,324 37 47.3 38 5.02 18
Charles White 621 39 20.7 39 3.39 39 993 39 33.1 39 4.37 36
  
You can see from those stats why Brown and Sayers were included. Sayers was first in yards from scrimmage per touch and third in yards per carry. I would have guessed Brown would rank first in yards per carry but he was second to Clinton Portis. I had almost forgotten how good Portis was in his first two seasons.
  
CJ was remarkably consistent with #3 or #4 rankings in every category. While this piece has dealt mostly with data and not much analysis (something to be looked at in the next article in this series) it provides more perspective on how much his career has blossomed in comparison to the top backs of the past 53 years.
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