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Why Chris Johnson Is Jets' Most Dangerous Weapon vs. Broncos in Week 6

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2014

New York Jets running back Chris Johnson warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Anyone who knows football—even on the most basic levels—would choose the Denver Broncos to be victorious over the struggling New York Jets.

Not one of Bleacher Reports’ NFL Experts took a chance on picking Gang Green to win this Sunday.

And rightfully so.

Peyton Manning has a 4-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions and is completing 66.5 percent of his passes—without much of a rushing attack, as it's ranked 29th in the league.

Montee Ball, who suffered a groin injury in Denver's Week 5 clash against the Arizona Cardinals, will be replaced by a combination of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. The Jets cannot afford to neglect Denver’s poor rushing attack with all the focus on a prolific quarterback.

Why?

Denis Poroy/Associated Press

San Diego Chargers’ third-string running back Branden Oliver became a household name for a week—embarrassing the Jets defense. He amassed 182 all-purpose yards, one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown in the Week 5 matchup.

Chris Johnson is a household name and a dual-threat running back, but his arrival in New York reeks of disappointment thus far. Despite the ability to accumulate significant all-purpose yards—he has yet to accumulate more than 100 total yards from scrimmage in a single game.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg hasn't been able to utilize Johnson’s speed and catching capabilities to exploit slower linebackers lacking in coverage skills.

Week 6 against Denver is the perfect time to put No. 21 to task. The Broncos defense is giving up the most receiving yards to running backs this season, per footballoutsiders.com.

As a receiver, Johnson has been targeted 13 times—one more target than Ivory this season. Ivory also takes the field for 39 percent of the offensive snaps, compared to Johnson’s 32 percent, per footballoutsiders.com

Ivory certainly earned the increased snaps by running ferociously between the tackles, but the Broncos have shown a flaw Johnson can take advantage of this Sunday when matched against the linebackers.

The advantage became apparent to Andrew Luck in the second half of Week 1.

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Luck gets solid pass protection.

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Bradshaw takes the inside route, and Luck delivers a touch pass, leading his receiver away from the defender, Bradley Roby.

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Bradshaw makes the catch, evades Roby’s tackle and continues running toward the sideline. Von Miller doesn't have the speed to chase Bradshaw down and gives up the first down.

Luck continued to pick on the Broncos’ weak interior coverage—knowing the capabilities of his dual-threat running back.

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On this particular play, Bradshaw runs out to the flat.

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Again, Luck delivers an accurate touch pass realizing the soft coverage. When Bradshaw makes the catch, he’s already in position for a first down.

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After making the catch and noticing open field behind him, the running back takes off for a 22-yard dash.

Geno Smith isn’t on the same skill level as Luck, but the advantage was also favorable to Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Logan Thomas.

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Cardinals running back Andre Ellington runs out to toward the sideline.

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Ellington uses his speed to beat linebacker Nate Irving on the edge.

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Thomas delivers a pass on the inside of the coverage—with Irving oblivious to the pass, his back toward the quarterback.

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Ellington makes the catch in traffic and gets a well-timed blocked from wide receiver Michael Floyd. Free safety Rahim Moore is unable to make the tackle on Ellington down the sideline.

Dual-Threat Running Backs Against the Denver Broncos
ReceptionsReceiving YardsTotal Yards
Ahmad Bradshaw (IND)57085
Andre Ellington (ARI)4112144
Pro-Football-Reference.com

Both the Indianapolis Colts and Cardinals were able to use their running backs to expose Denver’s poor intermediate pass coverage.

Secondly, the offensive lines and wide receivers for both teams didn't give up on the play after the catch—providing blocks and screens for the running backs.

Mornhinweg’s strategy should include a heavy dose of Johnson on screen plays and short passes—testing the coverage of the linebackers. Keeping the linebackers on their heels could open lanes for Ivory and tilt time of possession in the Jets’ favor. The short passes also help Smith establish some sort of rhythm.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News highlights the need for Johnson to remove himself from obscurity:

Manish Mehta @MMehtaNYDN

Column: Jets should get RB Chris Johnson more involved... in the passing game. #nyj http://t.co/iqCBQWFVa4

However, the issue at hand is bigger than Johnson re-establishing his worth.

The Jets need a receiver with the big-play ability to pick up yards in chunks to keep pace with Denver’s offense. The task isn't particular to a wide receiver. Johnson has the ability to fill that void.

Ivory has been the more effective running back, rushing for 318 yards compared to Johnson’s 191 rushing yards. Nonetheless, it would be a critical flaw if Mornhinweg neglects the opportunity to maximize Johnson’s potential in an offense that clearly needs a spark.

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