RBs coach wants to use Duke Johnson to play ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with defenses

BEREA: Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery isn’t counting on Duke Johnson to become a starter as a rookie, but he does envision a significant role for the University of Miami’s all-time leading rusher this season.

Montgomery is intrigued by Johnson’s versatility and prowess as a receiving threat. Those attributes have led Montgomery to compare Johnson to players from the past — Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas — and present — Cincinnati Bengals standout Giovani Bernard.

“The best way I can describe Duke is what Thurman Thomas was for Buffalo,” Montgomery said Thursday after practice. “It’s going to be all over the field. It’s a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ He gives you another dimension. He creates one-on-one problems. We hope he can be a little bit like the kid, Bernard, in Cincinnati. If he can do that for us, that gives us a different perspective on how we approach the field and gives us a chance to move people around and taking advantage of a mismatch.”
So the Browns plan to move Johnson around in their offense and use him in several ways.

Making him an every-down back, though, isn’t on the agenda. Especially not with promising second-year running backs Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West on the roster.

“It’s hard to have an every-down back in this league,” Montgomery said. “There’s too much punishment going on out there on the field. We’ve got to carve out a role for Duke. It wouldn’t be fair [when] we have never put the pads on yet to say, ‘He’s our starter.’ We don’t know how he’s going to recover from practice to practice yet. It’s totally different from college to here. He wasn’t utilized that way at Miami a lot.

“So with Duke, we’ve just got to find a way how we’re going to utilize him. Like Le’Veon Bell, his first year [with the Pittsburgh Steelers], he wasn’t the guy, but you kind of like working him into being the guy. Duke, I’m not saying he’s not going to be the guy. But I don’t know the workload he can handle right now.”

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