"Sleeper of the week" isn't exactly what most of you have in mind, I'm guessing. I won't be talking about the sleeper hold that Elvis Dumervil will put on Philip Rivers or the state of sleep that Rivers will experience after a forceful blow from Von Miller. This post is all about Jeremiah Johnson, the MHR Sleeper of the Week.
Jeremiah Johnson is the perfect player to help utilize this option offense. You know Jonathan Stewart in Carolina? Well, Jeremiah Johnson shared a backfield with Stewart in Oregon during the 2007 season before suffering a setback with an ACL tear midway through the season. That injury helped Stewart garner attention from NFL scouts and become a first round draft pick. Jeremiah Johnson continued to grind at Oregon and earned 2336 career rushing yards, 6th in Oregon history, despite having a shoulder injury against Utah State.
However, the "injury prone" label scared away a lot of NFL teams. As a 2009 undrafted free agent, he signed with the Houston Texans. Many believed that his "slasher" style could make him a solid backup for Steve Slaton. However, many fans questioned his signing because they believed that it was a waste to have "two Steve Slatons" in the Texans backfield. He suffered a dislocated toe during Texans training camp and was put on injured reserve. He was then signed by the Washington Redskins midway through the 2010 season. Of course, I don't have to tell you all how much Mike Shanahan loves his one cut runningbacks. Jeremiah Johnson's ability to get east/west quickly and then find a hole made him appealing to the former Broncos head coach. Johnson never made it up from the practice squad, however, and ventured to the Carolina Panthers practice squad.
Remember how I talked about how he shared a backfield with Jonathan Stewart in Oregon during the 2007 season before suffering an injury? Well, they were reunited in 2010 in Carolina. That was short lived as Jeremiah Johnson found his way in Denver late in 2010. What's interesting to me is how John Fox ended up meeting up with Jeremiah Johnson in Denver as he took over the head coaching position in 2011. It should be noted that there was a bunch of speculation about the possibility of bringing a different Carolina runningback (DeAngelo Williams) to Denver. However, we already had a Carolina runningback with some elusiveness and shiftiness, already. Williams signed with the Panthers later in free agency.
I believe that Jeremiah Johnson is our sleeper of the week because he's an opportunity away from revealing something to the Denver faithful. With the size of Willis McGahee and the slashing elusiveness of Jeremiah Johnson, he could be just the x-factor that could get this Broncos offense rolling. Jeremiah Johnson is a great rotational runningback with a lot of success and experience in the Oregon spread option. He doesn't lack for confidence in this offense, either.
"I majored in that... Since we got Tebow at quarterback, it has been a situation where we were going to run the option, and I was like, 'I can do that'. If they put me in there, I'm going to make the best of it."
-Jeremiah Johnson, on running the option
His stats may not show it, but he may be the most elusive runner in the Broncos backfield, right now. He sports an unfortunate 3 rushes for -2 yards, mostly due to a poorly thrown pitch that was sniffed out by the Jets defense. Although Willis McGahee toted the rock for a team leading 12 times against the Jets, I think that the Broncos will lean a bit more on Jeremiah in the spread option against the Chargers. He could have a breakout performance.
In preparation for this post, I sat down and watched the movie "Jeremiah Johnson". It had a lot of parallels for the Denver Broncos. One scene really struck me, when Robert Redford found a deceased mountain man named Hatchet Jack, frozen to a log.
I, Hatchet Jack, being of sound mind and broke legs, do leaveth my rifle to the next thing who finds it.
Sounds like "Next man up", to me. Here's hoping that Jeremiah Johnson can be the next man up and lift the Broncos to a victory against the Chargers.