May/14/15 07:42 AM Filed in: Duke Johnson
Duke Johnson’s 1,652 rushing yards jump out as one clear reason the Cleveland Browns used a third-round pick on him.
But don’t underestimate the 68 career receptions or the 38 catches Johnson had for the Miami Hurricanes in 2014, or the three receiving touchdowns.
Johnson’s receiving ability fills a great void for the Browns.
As well as Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West ran at times one year ago -- they combined for 1,280 yards and two touchdowns -- they never really filled a role as a receiver.
That could have been inexperience. It could have been Brian Hoyer looking more to the wideouts. It could have been that the emphasis on play-action took the backs out of the passing game.
The bottom line is the bottom line.
ESPN Stats and Information reports that Browns backs had a league-low 32 catches in 2014 for a league-low 226 yards. The backs also were targeted a league-low 36 times and scored a mere one receiving touchdown.
Backs are paid to run the ball, but Johnson’s strength is he brings skills that West and Crowell lack.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com wrote that Johnson is a “natural pass-catcher with beautiful body control, soft hands and smooth routes, often splitting out wide as a receiver.”
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said the Browns have been lining up West, Crowell and Glenn Winston wide in some plays. No doubt Johnson will do the same.
Johnson’s quicks were evident in the rookie camp. But that’s what should happen.
Quickness should stand out in drills without contact and without aggressive play. But Johnson also showed the ability to make catches on the run, including over-the-shoulder and down the field.
“You should have seen the choice route he ran in the seven-on-seven,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said on Saturday. “It was fantastic.”
The temptation game with any small and quick back with good hands is to compare him to Darren Sproles. Sproles is 5-foot-6 and cat quick, and he’s averaged 60 catches the last seven season.
Johnson is not Sproles. But he has some of Sproles’ attributes, especially quickness. That is an attribute the others backs lack.
The thought of the Browns using Johnson in certain mismatches and in certain formations to take advantage of his skills -- and speed -- has to be appealing to the offensive staff.