For the early part of Rudi Johnson's career, he made a living off his lower body strength that gave him a tremendous center of gravity. Where he could lower his body and pile through the line of scrimmage, he could spin away from tacklers, always leaning forward for additional yards after contact. Johnson was never much of a speed guy, too slow to turn the cover on stretch runs, pitches or sweeps; nor could he juke off tackles, or find a cutback lane; even if he could find it, he was often too slow to react to it. For the early part of his career, Johnson was a work-horse, once carrying the ball 43 times in regulation against the Houston Texans.
Where Johnson was a work-horse, power up the middle type of back, he made a fatal decision after the 2005 season, choosing to lose weight to become a swifter, livelier type of running back. Consequently, he lost his lower-body strength and became an easier target to tackle, without even a second kick of his formerly known tree-sized legs. After 2007, Rudi Johnson wasn't the elite power-back he once was, suffering through a nagging hamstring injury all season. He realized his shortcomings and in the offseason worked to reincarnate his lower-body strength to become elite power back again. However, during the first week of the 2008 training camp, Johnson suffered another hamstring injury, and only practiced two more times through all of preseason, never playing a game.
Taking a pounding was never a problem for Rudi and the injuries he's suffered were related to hamstring issues, not the type of injury accrued for a power-back.
There is one thing that should keep Lions fans hopeful for Rudi Johnson; even though I provided a dark forecast from recent performances. We didn't get a chance to see the "reborn" Rudi Johnson, gaining weight and his strength. If there's a chance of that, surely he'll exhibit that as soon as he can with a Rudi-like chip on his shoulder.