Mike Pettine says Duke Johnson 'looks explosive' on 1st day back in pads

BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie running back Duke Johnson practiced in pads Saturday for the first time since Aug. 1, and hardly looked like he'd been nursing a sore hamstring for the past three weeks.

Johnson churned out some yards in a 9-on-9 inside running drill and then had a pass from Josh McCown glance off his hands in 7-on-7s. He later caught a post route from Johnny Manziel in 7-on-7s and then a right screen from McCown, which he turned upfield for a long gain.

"His legs looked fresh,'' said Pettine. "I am not sure who he beat on the inside post – He looks explosive."

On one play, fellow back Isaiah Crowell blocked for him.

"It's tough on a defense when you have both tailbacks out there,'' said coach Mike Pettine. "You can use Duke as a wideout. It just gives you a little more flexibility from a formation standpoint, which then lends itself to a possible mismatch when you use Duke as a wideout. You can react to what a defense puts out there and call your play accordingly. That is something I am sure we will use."

Johnson said Saturday that the long layoff wouldn't set him back for the opener, and after watching him Sunday, you have almost had to believe him.
But the Browns had him on a pitch count Sunday.

"The last stretch of practice, we didn't use him,'' said Pettine. "On the last play, Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) wanted to use him and I used executive veto power and pulled Duke out of the huddle because he had sat for a little too long. He was right at his number."

Running back Shaun Draughn, who's mentored Johnson, was glad to see the rookie back in action.

"I actually love Duke's style,'' said Draughn. "I told him he reminds me of me a little bit. Another guy that looks up to me, and I respect that. He's coming into his own, he set his self apart and what he did, he set records. We're similar but we're different."

 Draughn gave Johnson high marks for his first real practice since Aug. 1.

"Like I said, I love to see him out there making people miss,'' he said. "He's just so smooth with this routes and so quick. I just like to see him play."

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