Cleveland Browns: 6 second-year players to watch in 2016
By Joel W. Cade
Third-round pick Duke Johnson is in an excellent prediction for a break-out season. Johnson is the all-time leading rusher at the University of Miami, a school that produced Willis McGahee (ok, forget that), Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James. Johnson out rushed all of them.
For as good as he was at Miami, Johnson has a history of hamstring injuries. Concerns over his hamstring, plus his diminutive size (5-foot-9) caused Johnson to tumble in the draft before Farmer picked Johnson up in the third round. And when training camp started, he almost immediately suffered a hamstring injury (along with almost the rest of the team). He will need to show he is able to stay healthy if he wants to break out this season.
This year’s staff see Johnson’s dynamic playmaking ability. Hue Jackson, whose propensity for praising players is only rivaled by Farmer’s propensity for downplaying the need for wide receivers, calls the combo of Johnson and Isaiah Crowell, “as good as I have seen for a while.”
Helping Johnson this season will be a return to the power run scheme in which he excelled at Miami. The Browns used the power run during the last four games in the 2015 season, and when Johnson was featured in the scheme his talent and abilities began to emerge. One only need to see his 39-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks to get excited about what he could accomplish next season.
Running backs coach Kirby Wilson calls Johnson the “ultimate weapon for us.” Johnson is the type of player that defenses must scheme for as he can line up in the slot or make catches out of the backfield. He is an X-factor on the field much like an H-back, and a smart offensive coordinator will use him to create mismatches. If Johnson is used as an “ultimate weapon,” this season will absolutely be a break-out year.
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