The Cleveland Browns are looking for any shred of hope that the upcoming season will be positive. Cleveland is hopeful that they can revive the career of Robert Griffin III and that new head coach, Hue Jackson, can help turnaround a franchise that has been in turmoil for far too long.
Although not one of the 14 1st round picks in this year’s draft was a running back, the Browns seem especially excited about the running game this season.
“If you look at (head coach Hue Jackson’s) record,” run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said per the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “in terms of running the football and the amount that he runs it, you’re going to find out that he really, truly does enjoy running the football. We are going to be a run-oriented football team.”
“We are confident in that group,” Executive VP of Player Personnel Sashi Brown said. “It doesn’t mean that it is necessarily as accomplished as other running back corps around the league are, but Isaiah (Crowell) has a great opportunity, along with the other guys in that room. Duke (Johnson) certainly impressed us his rookie year. We expect big things out of both of those guys — Glenn (Winston), Terrell (Watson) and the rest of that group as well.”
The group will be headlined by the battle for carries between Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.
“I think Isaiah is a complete player, in terms of the tools that he brings to the game,” Wilson said. “He’s explosive, he’s got really nice size, he’s got the natural ability to play the position, and he’s a bright young man, so football comes easy to him, in terms of the preparation part.”
“I thought Duke has a lot of those qualities that a lot of great running backs have, in terms of being a receiver,” Wilson said. “He’s got receiver background, he played it in high school, and he’s a playmaker whether he’s spread out or coming out of the back field. He’s very comfortable in space, he’s got natural ability to catch the football, and he knows how to run routes.”
“Duke Johnson was a draft pick a year ago who kind of burst onto the scene and had a ton of catches and made some unbelievable plays,” Jackson said. “So I’m looking forward to working with him. I think he’s very talented.”
Labeling Johnson as the “ultimate weapon” is heaping both high praise and immense pressure on the young running back. But Johnson does have the potential to be the lead back and a successful one in the Browns’ offense.
It’s still early, but it does look like Johnson is the back to beat for the starting role simply by reading between the lines.
Whether or not Johnson seizes that opportunity and proves to be a success remains to be seem but we will know a lot more once training camp starts playing out.