Last year, I was very critical of Charlie Johnson taking over as the starting left tackle. However, when the Colts went all the way to the Super Bowl with him starting, pretty much, every game at LT, it was kind of hard to stay pissed at the decision. Charlie is not an elite tackle, and if you look at how he played in 2009, calling him "decent" might be a stretch. But, overall, he seemed to get the job done.
Unless, of course, you agree with Pro Football Focus' evaluation of CJ.
PFF ranked Charlie at -21.1overall using their system, with a -6.5 ranking in the San Francisco 49ers game. That game is worth noting because it was obvious he struggled against their pass rush. in 2009, he was putrid in run blocking (-11.9) and pass blocking (-9.2). Overall, if you follow PFF as the guide for determining who is good and who sucks in the NFL, Charlie clearly falls in the "suck" category.
Now, for someone like me, I do not take PFF's word as Bible. Their system is subjective, requiring people to watch tape and judge, using their own two eyes, who constitutes "good" and what is "bad." I did the same thing myself throughout the entire 2009 season, and I didn't see Charlie Johnson play as bad as PFF's numbers indicate.
Oh, and speaking of numbers, Peyton Manning was sacked only 13 times, the lowest of any QB in the league. The Colts o-line also surrendered the fewest QB hits (44). Just throwing that out there.
However, when you look at the overall stats provided by NFL.com, and compare them to PFF's system, the picture starts getting a bit clearer. The Colts allowed 21 negative rushing plays to the left side of their line, 4th worst in the league. Want to know who the worst team was in that category? The Baltimore Ravens with 22. Want to know who their left tackle was last year? Some guy named Jared Gaither.
So, when looking at all these negative NFL.com and PFF stats for Charlie, how the hell did the Colts offense play so well in 2009? PFF names one guy: Manning.
Johnson allowed pressure around the edge 27 times in '09, but only once did that pressure result in Manning being sacked. That's on Manning
One more stat. How good must P Manning's peripheral vision be? C Johnson gives up 79.4% of his total pressure around the edge
As you all know, I'll be the first to tell you that Peyton Manning is the best QB in football at avoiding pressure from pass rushers. Tom Brady's pretty damn good at it as well, but Manning wrote the book on using subtle movement in the pocket to avoid pressure and make plays down the field. Remember when idiots used to call him a "statue?"
But, even though Manning is great at evading rushers, Charlie Johnson deserves some credit for not allowing rushers to touch Manning. The line only allowing 13 sacks for 2009 is outstanding, no matter what stats system you use.
Going into 2010, I still have my concerns about CJ, which was why I was so critical of the Colts taking Pat Angerer, a back-up linebacker, over Charles Brown, a potential starter at left tackle, in the second round of the 2010 Draft. It is certainly possible that Brown will stink as a prospect at tackle, but if that were the conventional wisdom, why did the Saints scoop Brown up immediately after the Colts passed on them? Last I checked, the Saints were better than the Colts, and have a pretty good draft formula themselves. Obviously, time will tell us which decision was the correct one.
With Tony Ugoh given up on as a potential starter at LT, the job now seems to solely belong to Charlie. However, if you follow the numbers, he must play better for the Colts to get back to the Super Bowl. Manning's peripheral vision might be great, but I'd prefer the tackle to, you know, block the guy he's supposed to block, allowing let Manning worry more about the DBs.
UPDATE: PFF responded to me on Twitter, saying Charlie's "certainly no All-Pro! :)"