Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dolphins sign RB Ian Johnson to practice squad

You may remember him from his All-American days at Boise State and the time he proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend after the Broncos' win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Now, you know him as the newest member of the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.

The Dolphins signed running back Ian Johnson to the practice squad Wednesday—the same day the team promoted running back Richard Medlin to the active roster to take the roster spot of Jake Long (IR/triceps). The team also worked out free agent running back P. J. Hill, but he was not signed.


Background

A San Dimas, Calif. native, Johnson rushed for 663 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman at Boise State before experiencing a breakout sophomore season in 2006. That year, Johnson totaled 1,714 yards and 25 touchdowns to earn numerous awards and accolades, including first-team All-WAC honors and third-team AP All-American honors.

Johnson rushed for 1,041 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior and just 766 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior as the running game took a back seat to the Broncos' powerful aerial attack. At the conclusion of his collegiate career, Johnson was a three-time All-WAC selection and broke Marshall Faulk's conference record for career rushing touchdowns.

Meausring in at just under six feet and 212 pounds, Johnson ran a 4.46 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 26 times and scored a 26 on the Wonderlic. However, he went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent.

Averaging 3.5 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns in the preseason, Johnson was waived during final cuts and re-signed to the team's practice squad. After rushing for just 38 yards on 15 carries (2.5 avg) during the 2010 preseason, Johnson was again waived by the Vikings.

Johnson split the 2010 regular season between the practice squads of the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions. He attended training camp with the Lions in 2011 and averaged 3.6 yards on 22 carries before being waived. Prior to signing with the Dolphins, Johnson had spent much of the season on the 49ers' practice squad before being released on Dec. 14.

As a member of the Dolphins' practice squad, Johnson will receive a salary of $5,700 for the final week of the season. He is eligible to be signed to another team's active roster and will become a free agent at season's end.


Analysis

With Reggie Bush nursing a knee injury and Daniel Thomas also missing time in Week 16, the Dolphins obviously felt they could use some more practice depth at running back during the final week of the season. You also have to consider the Dolphins having one less running back than they do given how much time Lex Hilliard spends at fullback these days.

As a prospect, Johnson is your solid all-around back that doesn't stand out in one area but does a lot of things well. He has pretty good vision and balance to go along with decent size and a strong build. He doesn't play nearly as fast as he times, however, and isn't all that much of a receiver.

Johnson had a nice career at Boise State, but he doesn't profile as that great of a pro prospect as you can imagine having not played in a regular season game in three years since going undrafted. He's actually going to be out of practice-squad eligibility soon, which could kill his chances of ever having a pro career if he doesn't establish himself somewhere soon.

Realistically, all Johnson can hope for is an offseason contract and the chance to prove himself in training camp in 2012, be it in Miami or elsewhere. His best bet is to make his mark on special teams and maybe work his way into the offense down the line due to injuries, but he should be considered a long shot to ever stick on a roster.

As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.


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