Chris Johnson's Slow Start, and Other Top Backs Who Started Badly

Chris Johnson had a public holdout that extended until right before the start of the season. He has now played in the first three games, and despite 46 rush attempts, has yet to reach 100 yards. The most likely explanations are the effects of no camp with the holdout, and randomness. Johnson does not have a major injury that seems to be effecting his numbers.

Is there hope for Johnson this year? I think so. I went and looked at all other backs since 1990 who were (1) in the top 12 in running back fantasy points the previous year, and (2) played in all 3 games to start the season, and had at least 40 rushes while averaging 2.5 or less yards per carry.

7 backs met those criteria: LaDainian Tomlinson 2007, Travis Henry 2003, Shaun Alexander 2002, Corey Dillon 2000, Jamal Anderson 1997, Chris Warren 1996, and Reggie Cobb 1993. (Reggie Cobb finished in the top 12 once? Yes, yes he did).

Those 7 other backs averaged 46.7 carries in the first 3 games, with a 2.15 yards per carry average. That’s almost identical to Johnson’s 46 carry for 98 yard start. The other struggling star backsĀ averaged 19.5 carries a game for the rest of the year, at a 4.4 yards per carry average. They averaged over 1,000 yards rushing for the final 13 games of the season. Only Reggie Cobb and Jamal Anderson failed to average 4.0 yards a carry for the remaining games.

While a really bad start from a back like Chris Johnson is not typical, when it has happened, most of the top backs just had a bad three games, and played closer to their typical performance for the rest of the year.

[photo via Getty]

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