Chargers Prospect Analysis: Halfback, Part I

Jaime Cattano kicks off a new three-part series analyzing the running back prospects the Chargers met with during Senior Bowl week. Michael Turner is set to bolt as a free agent, creating a void in the backfield. One prospect's superior receiving and rushing abilities make him a highly touted pick who could thrive as LaDainian Tomlinson's caddy.

The Chargers coaching staff met with Chris Johnson of East Carolina for a private meeting during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala. The Bolts' coaches were immediately drawn to the athlete's incredible aptitude and flexibility on the field.

Johnson finished his senior year with thunder. Named a first-team All-American as a return specialist by Pro Football Weekly, he bounced back and forth between running back and wide receiver. Johnson led the Pirates with 236 carries for 1,468 yards and 17 touchdowns. His 37 receptions added another 528 yards.

At 5'11", 195 pounds, Johnson's explosive speed garnered attention from coaching staffs besides the Chargers, including the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.

"It's been hectic," said Johnson from Mobile. "There have been a ton of meetings and interviews. I'm ready to go out there and work hard just like it's another day of practice."

The Oakland Raiders coaching staff worked with Johnson throughout the week, helping him hoist the caliber of his game.

"I'm excited," Johnson said. "There are a lot of scouts out there and just knowing the coaching staff is trying to help us raise our draft stock is comforting."

Johnson is a menace every time he touches the ball and is ready to show up and play. Being ready also means being focused.

"I'm a first-rate blocker. If I can stay strong and block well this week, the coaches will see it in person and that will really help improve their assessment of me."

Johnson, who set a lofty goal of running a 4.25-second forty at the Indy Combine, knows he has the right ingredients to excel at the next level.

"I'm quick in the backfield. I hit the ground with great speed and run hard. I have great catching ability and great return ability. I'm a threat every time I have a chance to touch the ball."

Johnson's biggest weakness is his size. His slight frame lacks the toughness and durability the Chargers are used to seeing in Michael Turner.

Starting running back LaDainian Tomlinson closed the season with an injury, causing him to opt out of the Pro Bowl. The Chargers need a player who can step in for LT and be as productive as Turner has been in spot duty.

If Johnson falls to the bottom of round three, the Chargers will think long and hard about tabbing him as the replacement for Turner and the possible heir apparent to Tomlinson.


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