In a season where the Cleveland Browns are knocking on the door to football purgatory, you would think there isn’t anything to be excited about, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
However, there has been one constant positive outlook on that side of the ball despite him not getting enough touches and that’s Duke Johnson.
The third year back has been consistent whenever he gets the ball in his hands whether it’s rushing or receiving and he is one of the few building blocks John Dorsey acquired when he was named general manager three weeks ago.
Johnson is the team’s leading receiver with 68 catches (most by a Browns running back in a single season) for 618 yards and three touchdowns. He’s not the primary back but has 328 yards on 76 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.
That’s 144 touches for 946 yards (6.57 yards per touch) and six total touchdowns (Browns have scored 24 total touchdowns all season).
He was named the team’s MVP on Wednesday which was voted on by the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association.
In his three seasons in Cleveland since they drafted him in the third round, Johnson has had at least 325 rushing yards, 50+ catches and 500+ receiving yards in each of those seasons making him an all purpose threat.
NFL people don’t give him enough credit as a talent and I think it’s because he doesn’t get the ball enough which leads me to I think the biggest problem in not letting Johnson break out and that’s Hue Jackson.
Johnson has had 10 touches or more in 5 of the 15 games played this season. Now I’m not discrediting Isaiah Crowell because he’s a talented back but when you have multiple playmakers at the position, you need to find a way to utilize them to the maximum and Jackson hasn’t done that.
Crowell is likely gone after this season as a free agent which would make people think Johnson will get the load at the position next year but many expect the Browns to draft a running back as early as the top of the draft with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley as the guy for that pick.
Johnson talked with the media about his future and also Hue Jackson’s future
Johnson’s comments on Jackson weren’t exactly a ringing endorsement, we all know it’s not his call on the future of Hue Jackson but he wasn’t really giving him a vote of confidence which makes you wonder if the locker room has Jackson’s full support still.
As for Johnson’s own future, he’s a free agent after the 2018 season and I’m of the belief that one of John Dorsey’s priorities this offseason is to sign Johnson to an extension. With a team lacking in playmakers, it’d be stupid to let the consistent one walk away in the spring of 2019 when I think he can be a lot better if he gets the ball a lot more.
I know it’s the cliché that players say they want to stay here but guys like Johnson who get passed on a lot in the draft process stay humble and grateful for the opportunity a team like Cleveland has given him, just hope they reward him for his production and dedication to the organization and city.