Duke Johnson adds another dimension to Browns passing attack
By Thomas Moore
Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson’s ability as a receiver may help elevate the passing game for the Browns this season.
Even with the annual spotlight on the quarterback competition, there has still been time to focus on other areas as the Cleveland Browns have worked their way through training camp.
One area in particular has been the wide receiver position.
Kenny Britt, a capable veteran whose only crime seems to be that he did not play his college ball at Ohio State, will fill one of the starter’s roles. Across from him will be Corey Coleman, last year’s first-round selection who struggled with injuries as a rookie but has been showing promise throughout camp.
After Britt and Coleman come a group of unproven players, led by Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton and Ricardo Louis who, like Coleman, are entering their second season in the league.
While they may not be on the same level as the league’s top units, the Browns have an ace in the hold in senior offensive assistant Al Saunders, who will get the most out of the group.
They may also have a weapon out of the backfield in third-year running back Duke Johnson, who has averaged 57 receptions in his first two years in the league.
With Isaiah Crowell holding down the rushing side of the running back equation, the Browns are preparing to utilize Johnson’s talents as a pass catcher to create mismatches on the field, Saunders told cleveland.com:
"“I’ve been fortunate in my career to have guys like Duke Johnson that have not only great running skills, but also skills as a receiver and skills as a player-in-space. They’re like the queen on the chess board. They can move to every spot. They can do everything and they give you an advantage when it comes to personnel matchups. So if you have a player like that and it allows you to be very creative on offense, it allows you to expand and play from sideline to sideline with players that are normally in the backfield.”"
It sounds like a great plan, but as we have often seen when it comes to the Browns, creating a plan is far easier than executing the plan.
But if Johnson can continue to be a reliable receiver he is a problem for opposing defenses. He is a quick enough to create a headache for linebackers trying to cover him, and packs a powerful stiff arm in his 5-foot-9 and 206-pound frame to drop on defensive backs.
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The wide receivers may still be a bit of a work in progress — especially once you get past Britt and Coleman – but when you add in the tight ends and Johnson’s versatility, the passing game may wind up better than many are expecting.