The Cleveland Browns will not be moving Duke Johnson to wide receiver despite his desire and apparent ability to make the switch.
With Corey Coleman gone, and Johnson having played the slot receiver position some last season, it seemed like Cleveland might toss around the idea of changing Johnson’s position.
He even recently said he prefers the receiver position over running back.
“I would rather play wide out,” Johnson said following Coleman’s trade to Buffalo. “I think that I enjoy wide out and have more fun playing wide out than I do playing running back.”
But coach Hue Jackson shot down the position switch hoopla quickly, just hours after Johnson’s Monday morning pre-practice comments.
“Let me make this clear, Duke’s position will not change,” Jackson said following Monday’s training camp session. “Will Duke get the opportunity to go out there as a back in our packages and play receiver?
“Yes, he will.”
So, while Jackson doesn’t envision swapping Johnson from running back to receiver, he has left the door open to continue to implement him into the game plan in different ways.
On a team lacking weapons, one which has a suddenly crowded backfield after adding both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb this offseason, that seems to make total sense. It makes more sense than maybe anything else about this 2018 Browns team.
“Duke is a very vital part of what we do on offense,” Jackson said. “He has been a playmaker ever since I have been here. He will continue to do that.”
Johnson’s motivation to switch and prove himself as a receiver could have something to do with his future paychecks, which would likely land him a higher salary on his next deal. But he has was signed to three-year extension recently, so maybe he really does just enjoy catching the ball better than running it.
But along with Jackson’s denial of a position swap, he isn’t getting much help from the team to aid his hopeful transition.
Johnson said he hasn’t been included in any receiver meetings and isn’t receiving coaching on route-running, but that hasn’t kept him from putting in work to develop his route tree.
“I have been working on it for a while now,” Johnson said. “Some [routes] are harder than others, but for the most part, I can do most of the things.”
Look, depth chart and roster position designations are nice and give us warm and fuzzies so that we can try to wrap our heads around the inner workings of Jackson and Todd Haley’s brains. But they mean very little other than for pay scale and roster composition purposes.
Those directing the Browns offense are going to find ways to get the ball into Johnson’s hands. Call him a running back, call him a wide receiver, call him whatever your heart desires, just make sure he gets the ball this fall.