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Pasch Factor: The Impact Of CJ2K

Running back's production is just another example of the benefit of the "prove-it" signings

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One of the major themes of the Steve Keim era as General Manager is taking veteran players who've been released by other teams, and signing them to short term "prove-it" contracts.

It's not a new practice in the NFL, but it's arguably worked better for the Cardinals than any other team. John Abraham, Karlos Dansby, and Antonio Cromartie are examples of past success stories. And there are several on the current roster hoping to help the Cardinals to the postseason, while helping themselves to big dollars next offseason.

Running back Chris Johnson appears to be the player in this category poised to have the biggest impact in 2015. While showing glimpses of great downhill speed that led to a 2,000-yard rushing season earlier in his career, Johnson looks like he is in the process of reinventing himself. At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Johnson won't be a guy that will consistently hammer the football between the tackles. However, he does seem more willing and able to get the tough yards than I remember. He is not afraid to dip his shoulder and take on contact. Plus, his ability to patiently wait for holes to open and slither between defenders is as good as any back in the league.

Johnson has always been a good receiver coming out of the backfield, which means defenses have to honor him and giving the Cardinals another weapon in the passing game. Frankly, after watching him the past couple of games, I'm not sure why the Jets didn't bring him back. He averaged over four yards per carry last season, quite an achievement for a team that had quarterback problems.

Johnson had rare speed coming out of East Carolina. Many wondered if he would be a kick returner or "one-trick" running back as a pro. However, his straight-line speed wasn't his only asset. Even if that speed defined him in Tennessee (and presumably in New York), it's not the only thing that makes him valuable in Arizona. He isn't the same player at age 30. The good thing is that he realizes it. Per usual, one team's loss is the Cardinals' gain. Johnson could be the missing piece in the running game to put the Cardinals at the top of the NFL.

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