2. D’Ernest Johnson, Running Back
Some players just become easy to root for. The Browns have a couple of players this year who fall into that category, with one of them being former Orlando Apollos running back D’Ernest Johnson.
A former USF star, Johnson didn’t get his chance at making the NFL in 2018 and according to Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Republic, his playing days seemed to be done following his collegiate career. Then, the Apollos called and gave him a shot to prove himself.
"“Johnson’s football career seemed to be over in 2018. He found work as a personal trainer in Gainesville. Then he got a call from the Orlando Apollos in the Alliance of American Football.” — Doerschuk, Canton Republic"
The league didn’t last long, but Johnson took the opportunity they provided him and he ran with it. He ended up catching the eye of some of Cleveland’s scouts and wound up joining them this offseason. At that time, he faced a tough road to the roster with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Duke Johnson, and Dontrell Hilliard ahead of him.
Now, he suddenly has a much more realistic path with Duke traded to the Houston Texans and Hunt suspended for the first eight games. This makes D’Ernest Johnson the favorite to start the season as the third back, but he’s trying to prove he can do more than just run the ball which could convince the Browns to keep him around longer.
On Saturday, Johnson had 53 yards on the ground and 26 through the air, while also scoring a receiving touchdown. He also had three kickoff returns and two punt returns for a combined 72 yards. While those numbers weren’t eye-popping, he proved to be comfortable in those roles which is something that could truly help him land a job this season.