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Rookie back Johnson watching and learning

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 9, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    [​IMG]

    By Chris Jenkins
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    8:27 p.m. August 9, 2009

    Already, clearly, the competition is under way. Among the Chargers' rookie class of draftees and free agents, the top two in this particular category were readily identified, and there's nobody else close to running back Gartrell Johnson and defensive lineman Vaughn Martin.

    “Best dreads, me or Vaughn?” said Johnson, who, like Martin, was a fourth-round selection. “Mine are better by far. We have two different styles, but he knows I have better dreads.”

    His face fully framed by the huge mane of dreadlocked hair, Johnson flashed a laugh that literally glittered with gold, the caps of choice adorning several of his front teeth. The gold belies his soft-spoken nature and, to a certain extent, the way he goes about the business of advancing a football.

    There's not a great deal of razzle-dazzle to Johnson's game, by most accounts, though some of the numbers he compiled in running and catching the football in the end were eye-popping.

    In the last game of his career at Colorado State, Johnson amassed an NCAA postseason-record 375 yards total offense in a 40-35 defeat of Fresno State at the New Mexico Bowl, rushing for 285 on 27 carries and turning five receptions into an additional 90 yards gained. Included in there were breakaways of 57 and 77, the latter providing the game-winning touchdown.

    “He reminds me of Stephen Jackson without that much speed,” said Anthoney Hill, the San Diego product and former Colorado State quarterback who was Johnson's position coach at CSU. “He's a physical guy, a slasher who runs with efficiency. If a play needs to make three yards, he gets you 4½ or 5.”

    Dependability can be an understated trait, too, but Johnson was reliable to the point of astonishing at CSU. Between his freshman and senior seasons, Johnson handled the ball 554 times without a fumble, a stat that's downright Tomlinson-like.

    Any other comparisons at this point are grossly unfair to Johnson, given LaDainian Tomlinson's accomplishments with the Chargers and his NFL stature, though it is coincidence that both wore No. 5 as collegiate running backs and played for schools now in the Mountain West Conference.

    Then again, Johnson was a running back drafted higher than expected by a team that has Tomlinson still running toward the Hall of Fame and back Darren Sproles entering his prime as one of the NFL's most electrifying players, not to mention the latter's designation as the Chargers' franchise player.

    “My first thought was that that's probably a good situation for Gartrell,” Hill said. “He's the type of guy who can be a great special teams player – he'll play hard anywhere you put him – and I'm guessing he'll get more carries in the preseason because they're not going to want to run (Tomlinson and Sproles) a lot. He can set set himself up.”

    “It's good,” Johnson said. “I'm just learning from them. Both have done great things and have the kind of attributes I admire.”

    On a much different scale, Johnson has found himself in this situation before. He came out of Florida's Miami Springs High as the leading rusher in a national hotbed of prep football, Dade County, with 1,649 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior year.

    When he arrived in faraway Fort Collins, though, he was generally deemed a short-yardage back. He became the first back since La Jolla High product E.J. Watson – a Hill teammate at CSU – to lead the Rams in running yards three straight seasons and graduated as the Mountain West rushing champion.

    Just where Johnson fits into the Chargers' grand scheme could be one of the more interesting stories of camp and the preseason, which begins Saturday night against Seattle at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Because he is built low to the ground and assumes an even lower profile with the ball in his hands, and because he played some fullback at CSU, some presumed that's the position where Johnson would be getting the most work with the Chargers. But the team sees him as a tailback, one with an especially keen ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, as if the Chargers needed yet another offensive weapon.

    “I just want to play football here, put the pads on and take advantage of the opportunity to prove myself,” Johnson said. “It's always good to tote the rock and be that guy, but the main thing is to do what they need me to do. Just go out and compete.”

    Even when the helmet's off.
     
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

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    They'd better not try to make him a FB. He's gonna be a damn good tailback - just the bruiser that we need. :tup:
     
  3. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    they have a former running back they're transforming to fullback, so i think they'll leave johnson where he is
     
  4. Alpenbolt

    Alpenbolt BoltTalker

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    Love, love, love that fumble stat. Perfect.
     
  5. TBF

    TBF BoltTalker

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    This team (in the past) lacked a big man to pound the rock in the 4th Qtr.... We have needed this back for a long time.... We have had similar, but we didn't use them... IMO, this guy is a tailor made fourth quarter closer....
     
  6. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

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    LT has a history of devastating 4th quarters. He's gotten stronger as the game wore on, and that won't change this season. Johnson could spell LT and he would be an interesting pairing with Sproles , as would Hester. Johnson and Tolbert are competing for a roster spot and so far it would appear that Johnson is the more valuable because he can fill two rolls like Hester.
     
  7. SDChargers1982

    SDChargers1982 Well-Known Member

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    But in some games that the game is just locked in 3rd quarter (Raiders Game...LoL) why let L.T. on the field, put Johnson in and keep L.T. safe and fresh for the next game.
     
  8. Rainman

    Rainman BoltTalker

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    I cannot WAIT to see what GC does when he gets the cace t carrythe ball in the preseason.

    I lik everything about Gartrell's attitude. Humble, hard working, and bringin' it 24/7.

    He should excel on special teams, and have a niche role on offense.
     
  9. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

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    I couldn't agree more, except against the Sliver and Bleck. L.T. is Jonesing for the rushing record, so I doubt he will want to leave many games early. He kills the Raiduhs and if L.T. can rub their noses even more deeply into the turf, I am all for it. If there was 20 seconds left and we had a first and 10 on our own twenty with a four touchdown league I'd be rooting for us to throw a bomb and score again against Oaklamb.
     
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