Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens Flashback: RB Chris Johnson (Tennessee)

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines former 2,000-yard back Chris Johnson and discovers that a subtle move could help him flip the field better than a dramatic jump cut. 

I missed on Chris Johnson when I studied him for the 2008 NFL Draft. I didn’t see enough tape and I didn’t grasp the subtleties of how footwork, stride length, and stride pace help an evaluator determine the runner’s understanding and execution of specific blocking schemes.

Although Johnson’s game was filled with footwork pyrotechnics, there was also the subtlety of a master craftsman and it helped him anticipate penetration, set up cutback lanes, and earn more yards after contact than his frame appeared capable. This run in 2011 is the product of Johnson spotting the penetration before he receives the exchange and maintaining a controlled stride length towards the exchange so he could set up a dramatic change of direction past the defender who had him dead to rights with something as simple as the placement of the instep of his right foot as he took the ball from Matt Hasselbeck.

Where many backs would hop through the exchange or take a large prep-step to set up a jump cut, Johnson keeps his feet on the ground and opts for the simplest solution that helps him open his hips in a direction where he could accelerate past the opponent and without wasting time from going airborne with a hop and cut.

As exciting as Johnson was, he was also efficient. And why wouldn’t he be? He was one of the fastest backs in the history of the game. If your superpower is speed, wouldn’t you want to cultivate that advantage at every moment by keeping your feet on the ground where they can belong?

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Categories: Matt Waldman, Players, Running Back, The NFL LensTags: , ,


  1. I am considering purchasing/subscribing etc. I am doing my research where to put my money. This article on Chris Johnson, while honest etc. does nothing for me in regards to the upcoming 2019 season. Who right now reminds of Johnson etc?why did you even bother to write this. I think I want to be a fan of MW. Please explain.

    • Dan,

      The intent of the article isn’t meant to help you learn the answers to the test for the 2019 season. These short articles are focusing on 1-2 points to help you learn about the game without someone telling you the answers all of the time.

      If you want bottom-line, simplified answers for free with every article, there are plenty of sites out there that try to do that.

      The NFL Lens series share moments about players and how that applies to the process of evaluating players. This article is about movement and perception with higher-end athletes.

      If you want to know what you’d be spending money on, take the video tour of the product, which is as in-depth as anything you’ll find about each rookie class of skill players:

      If you have further questions let me know, because it sounds like you’re seeking a subscription to NFL analysis. The RSP publication is a rookie skill players draft guide.

      Best of luck with your search.


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