Cleveland Browns: Fullback Johnny Stanton is next man up

Browns, Johnny Stanton. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Johnny Stanton. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Johnny Stanton is now the first-string fullback for the Cleveland Browns after Andy Janovich went on IR.  

Fullback Johnny Richard Stanton IV will probably see action this Sunday for the Cleveland Browns in Arizona, as he subs for Andy Janovich, who is out of action with a strained hamstring. This is the second tour of duty on the 53-player roster for Stanton, who appeared in one game for the Browns last season, with 12 snaps at fullback, and another nine snaps on special teams.

This summer, Stanton seemed to be significantly improved as a pass-catcher, so much so that the Browns seemed to be entertaining thoughts of using him as a fourth tight end behind David Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant, especially when Stephen Carlson went out with a knee injury. He made several good plays as a receiver in the preseason but wound up being waived anyway.

The Browns were fortunate that no other NFL team claimed him, so they were able to sign him to the practice squad. There’s definitely a vacancy for a fourth tight end on a team that features the two-tight-end offense, so he might stick if he shows he can block effectively for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as well as old Number Six, even when Andy Janovich returns.

Janovich was not being utilized as much at fullback this season compared to last season, probably because all three tight ends have been able to elevate their games this season.

The competition between Janovich and Stanton this summer was thought to be very close, with Stanton generally believed to be the more athletic, but Janovich better at the bread-and-butter duties of blocking for the inside running game and helping to protect the pocket for Baker Mayfield. If they were looking for an H-back tight end and pass receiver as a higher priority, they might like Stanton a little better.

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In any case, it is very difficult to make comparisons between players when one player is a veteran with an established regular season track record, and the other player looks really good playing against second and third-string in the preseason when most of the players have only been together a few weeks.

We can only say that Stanton was very, very impressive, athletic and an exciting player, but we know that Andy Janovich is a professional fullback and the Browns are lucky to have him.

In addition, the impression is that Stanton is continuing to improve. Coach Kevin Stefanski has watched Stanton since he was an undrafted rookie in Minnesota in 2019, and kind of brought him over to Cleveland when he took the head job with the Browns. Stanton had been a quarterback in college.

His career took a non-linear trajectory as he started with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but crashed and burned after redshirting and then winding up third-string and attempting only one pass in his redshirt year.

Having had enough of that, Stanton transferred to Saddleback College and made first-team Junior College All American, on the strength of 3,471 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 747 rushing yards, and 12 rushing touchdowns. It appears he proved his point.

From there, it was on to the University of Nevada Las Vegas. His junior year was cut short due to injury, but in his senior year, he played fullback, linebacker, and quarterback and compiled 724 passing yards with four touchdown passes, plus 96 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also recorded nine tackles on defense, and had a blocked punt, and was also a punt returner on occasion.

Can we agree this guy is an amazing athlete? How many quarterbacks have ever blocked a punt, played linebacker, and returned a punt? Stanton’s college resume is just legendary.

If Stanton was not quite ready back in September, things might be a bit different after five more weeks of working on specific portions of the playbook. The buzz this summer was that he was improving week to week. If that process has continued for lo these five extra weeks, he may actually be dangerous by now, to borrow a phrase from Number Six. It would not be a shock to see him help Kareem Hunt or Nick Chubb bust a big run or two versus Arizona this Sunday.

Everyone knows that in today’s NFL the fullback position is not the same as it was 60 years ago. Nevertheless, fullback was the position that James Nathaniel Brown played, and thus it has special significance to Browns fans. There have been some awesome players who have lined up at fullback for the Browns, including Marion Motley, Ernie Green, Charlie Harraway, Bo Scott, Mike Pruitt, Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, Leroy Hoard, Lawrence Vickers, and others.

Even today, being the fullback for the Cleveland Browns means that Andy Janovich and now Johnny Stanton are very special people. They are part of the identity of the team.

Some years, the Browns did not even have a fullback, and it just did not feel right. Sometimes they even scored points, but doesn’t it just seem like the Browns should have people who can block as well as run and catch passes? In fact, that seems to be the signature of the AFC North. Even the wide receivers in this division are very aggressive blockers.

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In case you are wondering, Andy Janovich is on contract for 2022 at a cap charge of $1.6 million dollars, according to Overthecap, but it is not guaranteed. The Browns control Stanton next season also. His deal would probably be at about the league minimum, which is to say at less than half of Janovich’s price tag.