Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson is a man of many talents on the field.
But one area of the game in particular catches his fancy.
Johnson, who is entering his fourth season with the Browns, is open to the idea of catching the ball on a full-time basis, going so far as to actively lobby head coach Hue Jackson for a position change, as he told cleveland.com:
“Being in the slot or lined up out wide is fun for me because it’s different. It’s something that I love to do. I want to be a slot receiver. I’d rather be a slot receiver than a running back, 100 percent.”
Before anyone gets the idea that Johnson is unhappy with his current role, especially fresh off a contract extension in the offseason, he went on to say that he would only be bummed out if the Browns limited him to simply running the ball.
That is not likely to happen, however, given how effective Johnson is in the passing game.
A year ago he set a team record for running backs with 74 receptions, surpassing Greg Pruitt’s 65 receptions in 1981. Those 74 receptions were the fourth most for a running back in the NFL, and Johnson’s 693 receiving yards were third best at the position.
Johnson has caught 188 passes in his three years with the Browns, placing him at No. 25 on the franchise’s all-time receptions list.
Another solid season this fall and Johnson could finish the year solidly in the team’s top 20 list for career receptions.
That seems very likely given that the Browns signed running back Carlos Hyde in free agency and selected running back Nick Chubb in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. They should see the bulk of the carries this season, limiting the amount of touches Johnson sees in the run game. (Another area where Johnson holds his own as he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry in his career.)
No matter what position he is listed at, Johnson adds a valuable, if sometimes overlooked, presence to the passing game. Having him on the field with wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Corey Coleman, along with tight end David Njoku, provides an array of problems for opposing defenses, and a reliable target for quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield.