Our next position to focus on for our training camp preview on the Cleveland Browns is running back.
1. Duke Johnson - Receiving RB
Height: 5-9 | Weight: 210 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 4 years | College: Miami
We’re still waiting on the year-by-year details to come out, but in early June, Duke Johnson signed a 3-year, $15.6 million extension to remain with the club through 2021. Fans knew how valuable of a weapon Johnson was, but there was some concern that the team wouldn’t be willing to pay the price to extend him, especially after adding a potential starting running back (Carlos Hyde) and drafting another (Nick Chubb) this offseason.
Johnson is very capable of producing with carries, despite his labeling as a “receiving running back.” In his career, Johnson is averaging a healthy 4.2 yards per carry. He’s never made it to 400 yards rushing in a single season, though. He has been an excellent receiver, posting career highs last year with 74 catches for 693 yards and 3 touchdown receptions (7 touchdowns overall).
Todd Haley has varied his approach — in Pittsburgh, he almost exclusively used Le’Veon Bell. In Kansas City, he used a multi-back approach. He will likely rotate running backs in Cleveland, but expect Johnson to regularly be the third down back and in for some situations where the offense is trying to strike quick. I’ll be curious to see if the Browns use two running backs on the field at the same time; some of those formation things will be good to pay attention to in training camp.
I’m 2017, 32.1% of Duke Johnson’s rushing attempts went for a 1st down or TD, the top rate in the NFL among RBs with at least 80 attempts. pic.twitter.com/qhGVMjqKqc— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) June 24, 2018
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Carlos Hyde - Veteran RB
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 229 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 5 years | College: Ohio State
Something in my head keeps wanting to think of Hyde as a long-time veteran running back in the NFL, as if he is Frank Gore or something. That is hardly the case, though; in fact, he’s only been in the NFL one year longer than Duke Johnson has.
Hyde is coming off his best season as a pro, when he started all 16 games for the 49ers under Kyle Shanahan. He carried the ball 240 times for 938 yards (3.9 YPC) for 8 touchdowns. He also was more involved as a receiver than he’d ever been, catching 59 passes for 350 yards. Hyde posted somewhat comparable numbers to what Isaiah Crowell was producing. Crowell was disgruntled in Cleveland, so Hyde fills that void, and I’m sure it won’t be difficult for Cleveland fans to get behind the Ohio State product.
Although Hyde saw a significant uptick in receptions last year, that was a reflection of playing in Shanahan’s offense, not that he has improved significantly as a receiver. If at all possible, the team will try not to make using Hyde in receiving situations a priority. He has decent pass protecting skills, adding to the plug-and-play nature that Todd Haley will have to work with. It’s hard to tell whether Hyde will “start” or not; I don’t think his veteran status will grandfather him in to that job. He will have to show in the preseason and training camp that he is ahead of rookie Nick Chubb, because the running back position often sees the freshest blood rising to the top.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. Nick Chubb - Rookie RB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 227 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Georgia
Taken with the 35th overall pick, the word “power” defines rookie Nick Chubb. That is the word that one of Bob McGinn’s anonymous scouts from before the draft used to describe him, and the Browns’ very own running backs coach used a similar word (violence) to describe Chubb.
Chubb came alive during his senior year at Georgia, and if defenders don’t bring him down right away, Dane Brugler says he can “use his balance and lower body strength to squirm away from tackle attempts.” The general agreement is that he is not a very explosive runner, but has a good “feel” for running the ball. The amount of missed tackles he forced last year ranked third in the country:
The Cleveland Browns added Nick Chubb, who finished with the third-most missed tackles among 2018 NFL Draft RBs pic.twitter.com/szPJWZrPZJ— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 1, 2018
I think Chubb will get a fair shake at being the team’s leading ball-carrier for opening day. The coaching staff should use training camp to determine which running back between Chubb and Carlos Hyde has a better feel for the offense and roll with them as their lead back and Duke Johnson as the complementary back.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
In Part 2, we will look at the other two running backs on the roster heading into training camp, followed by a quick look at fullback candidates. Our first poll question asks which running back you think will finish with the most rushing yards for Cleveland this year — but also be sure to tell us in the comments how you think playing time and carries will be distributed throughout the season.
By the end of the regular season, which running back will have the most rushing yards for Cleveland?
This poll is closed