Chris Johnson and the impact of his lost step

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26: Running back Chris Johnson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 26: Running back Chris Johnson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals (Photo by Nils Nilsen/Getty Images) /

Chris Johnson has lost a step and it could wind up costing him a spot on the Arizona Cardinals roster

The Arizona Cardinals are still working out their roster for the 2017 season. One of the positions that hasn’t been settled yet is at running back, where David Johnson rules as the top guy. Behind him, though, things are a lot less sure.

Kerwynn Williams ended the 2016 season on a positive note, but has little experience. TJ Logan was drafted to be a change of pace runner, and a return man, but is injured. Elijah Penny is a big back, but hasn’t shined in the playing time he’s gotten. Andre Ellington rounds out the backup crew, and he has been solid this preseason, but has had health issues in the past.

Chris Johnson is the guy that makes the most sense as the backup, in theory. He brings plenty of experience, and is one of the great running backs in modern history. The Cardinals are hoping he still has the speed to make a difference.

More from Raising Zona

So far this preseason, Johnson hasn’t excelled. He has just ten yards on seven carries in the two games he’s played in. More importantly than the stats, however, is the obvious lost step. It’s fairly obvious, especially when he’s in space, that age is affecting the former 2,000 yard rusher. Plays that might be long runs wind up as short ones. Defenders are just able to close on him quickly.

Johnson suffered an injury last season that limited him to just 25 carries. He averaged 3.8 yards per run, which is more than half a yard off his career pace. He’ll be 32 years old in September, and for a player who depends on speed so much, a loss of even just a little could be critical.

The Cardinals have one of the best starting running backs in the NFL. Barring an injury, David Johnson is going to dominate the touches, but a viable backup is still necessary. Chris Johnson wants to be that guy, and the team would love him to be that guy. Unfortunately, it might not be possible. There’s still some preseason left for Johnson to prove he can do it, but after years of being chased from behind by everybody, it might be age that has finally caught up to him.