Enjoy What Chris Johnson Did, He May Never Repeat It
There were a whole lot of better teams in 2009, but there wasn't a better player than Johnson. Johnson was named the Offensive Player of the Year after having one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. There have been few players who have ever been more of a threat to break a big play at any moment--Johnson had seven runs of more than 40 yards, only one other player in the league (Jamal Charles) had more than four. Just to top it off, Johnson also had as many 40+ yard catches as Santonio Holmes, Chad Ochocinco and Percy Harvin.
We fans often get caught up in looking ahead and dreaming on what could be. If Johnson could go for 2,000 yards on a team that was offensively in disarray for half the season, what can he do with Vince Young providing an additional run/pass threat in the backfield for a full season?
But we should truly appreciate what we just saw, because with a big-play back like Johnson, we may have already seen his best. A couple of years ago, Adrian Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record as a rookie. It was easy to dream at what he could do to build on his rookie year.
Two years later, we may never see Peterson put together another year like his rookie season. He's still one of the best backs in the league, he's more consistent and he's been able to stay healthier, but his yards per carry and his long runs have dipped each of the past two years.
Peterson may pile up 1,400 yard seasons year after year, but we may never again see Peterson threaten the single-game rushing record like he seemed ready to nearly every week during his rookie season. Peterson topped 200 yards twice during his rookie year, he hasn't topped 200 yards again since then -- he only topped 100 yards three times this season.
Johnson's blazing speed will give defensive coordinators problems for years to come, but no one has ever rushed for 2,000 yards twice. Eric Dickerson set the NFL single-season rushing record as a 24-year-old. Jamal Lewis topped 2,000 yards as a 24-year-old, but he never came close to reaching that level again. Of the six 2,000 yard seasons in NFL history, three have been turned in by 24-year-olds.
The hope is that Johnson can have a career like Barry Sanders -- someone who kept his big-play ability year in and year out, but that can't be taken for granted. Which is why we need to enjoy every Johnson big play as it happens. Because we may never see him turn in another season like the one he just gave us.