The subject of constant trade rumors for months, Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson may not see the field soon due to a hamstring injury.
Johnson was on the field for the first two days of Browns training camp. Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens revealed Saturday that the team was going to be cautious with Johnson’s hamstring so they do not rush him back.
On Sunday, Josina Anderson of ESPN reported that Johnson “could miss some time” as he recovers from the hamstring injury.
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Without Johnson on the field, the Browns are extremely thin at running back. Kareem Hunt has not practiced during training camp due to a groin injury, so the Browns only had three running backs for Saturday’s practice: Nick Chubb, Dontrell Hilliard, and D’Ernest Johnson. The Browns signed A.J. Ouellette on Saturday to add more depth.
Johnson’s injury creates a bit of dilemma for Cleveland in two ways. The first problem is their noted lack of depth at the position. Chubb and Hilliard are the only healthy running backs expected the team, as D’Ernest Johnson and Ouellette are undrafted free agents. That means Chubb and Hilliard are going to take more reps than planned during the start of training camp, which could be cause for concern about more risk for potential injury.
The other dilemma for the Browns is the well-known trade rumors surrounding Johnson. Johnson has made it well-known that he wants out of Cleveland and it seems destined to happen at some point. But the Browns have stated Johnson will have a large role in the offense and they do not want to trade him away for nothing.
However, even though the Browns say they want Johnson in their offense, there is also a good chance they are not getting the value they expected in trade talks, which is why he remains on the roster. With several veteran running backs available, teams do not have to make trades to add serviceable backs. And teams know Johnson wants out of Cleveland, so the Browns may not have much leverage in the situation.
The best case for Johnson to be traded before the regular season was if a team dealt with injuries during training camp and preseason at running back and needed a quality back to fill the hole. But if Johnson is going to miss time before the regular season, teams are going to look elsewhere to fill the hole.
The Browns have worked out two other running backs over the past week: Orleans Darkwa and Akeem Hunt. If Johnson is expected to miss an extended amount of time, perhaps the Browns circle back to one of the two to add more depth to the position.