3. Not playing D’Ernest Johnson versus Arizona
D’Ernest Johnson should have been playing all along. The two stars at tailback for the Browns are Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, both of who have been Pro Bowlers, and both of who have turned in 1,000-yard seasons.
Both missed time in 2022, however, which led to the discovery of a third back, D’Ernest Johnson, who has been sitting patiently on the bench since 2019. Neither Freddie Kitchens nor Stefanski wanted to play him, however. Johnson was not a Combine sensation and came from South Florida, which is not much of a football power.
Although his story has been written about several times in Dawg Pound Daily, for those not familiar with Johnson, he stepped up his game with the help of Olympian Tim Montgomery and a training company called Numa Speed. It seemed to really work for him, or at least his game speed seems to be much faster than his stopwatch speed. That would be 4.81 seconds, which is close to Mayfield at 4.84 seconds, just to put it in context. In fact, there are species of land snails that can cover ground more quickly than 4.81 seconds.
Against Arizona in Week 6, Chubb was out and Hunt was trying to play hurt with a strained calf muscle. Shouldn’t this have been an opportunity for Johnson to get a few carries? Not according to coach Stefanski.
Naturally, as was 100 percent predictable, Hunt aggravated his injury with 12 minutes left in the game and the Browns behind, 30-14. Do you suppose if there had been a few carries for Johnson, it might have helped out Hunt just a little bit?
The following week, Johnson gained 146 yards on 22 carries (6.64 yards per carry) versus Denver, which suggests he was not such a liability after all.
In fact, Johnson was outstanding all year long, with 534 yards in 100 carries for 5.34 yards per carry.
For his career, he has 721 yards in 137 carries, or 5.26 yards per carry. Look, he probably won’t stay at that lofty level for his career, but if he can stay around 4.2 yards per career, that’s good enough to earn a living as the third-string running back for the Cleveland Browns. He is good enough to lighten the workload a little bit for Hunt and Chubb a little bit.
However, because Stefanski would not play Johnson in garbage time against Arizona, Hunt wound up missing five straight games. Not good.