Part 1 of our training camp preview on the running back position is here. The backs featured in Part 2 have a lot to compete for in training camp, though. With Kareem Hunt suspended for half of the season and Duke Johnson’s trade requests, the team will definitely need one of these backs, and possibly two of them, on their 53-man roster.
4. Dontrell Hilliard - Backup RB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 202 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: Tulane
Dontrell Hilliard is the favorite to be on the Browns’ roster as their No. 3 running back, aided by him playing the second half of last season. Funny enough, he never actually carried the ball, but he did catch 9 passes for 105 yards, so Freddie Kitchens believes in his ability as a receiving back. Last preseason, Hilliard had 30 rushes for 82 yards (2.7 YPC) -- but it’s seldom a good idea to judge poor stats on the preseason, when third-string offensive lines are blocking.
Hilliard also had a pass intercepted during the regular season, when he tried throwing it to QB Baker Mayfield. Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com wrote a nice feature piece on Hilliard’s determination, and how he received accolades from both head coach Freddie Kitchens and running backs coach Stump Mitchell, and DBN’s Thomas Moore added on to it here. With Duke Johnson skipping all of the offseason programs prior to mandatory minicamp, it gave Hilliard the opportunity to shine, and he took advantage of it.
Hilliard is also a candidate to be the Browns’ kick returner; he returned 11 kickoffs last season, averaging 24.0 yards per return while also contributing 3 tackles as a special teams defender.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
5. D’Ernest Johnson - AAF RB
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 208 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 1 year | College: South Florida
D’Ernest Johnson entered the NFL in 2018 as an undrafted free agent, spending some time with the Saints in the offseason. Where he made his mark was earlier this year in the AAF, where he played for the Orlando Apollos and was the running back for QB Garrett Gilbert (who is also on the Browns). Johnson was the AAF’s third-highest rusher with 372 yards and 2 touchdowns. Here is a nice highlight for Johnson from his time in the AAF:
D’Ernest Johnson with the truck stick for a big gain to set Orlando up inside the red zone with half a minute remaining in the half. #TakeAim— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValenciaPFN) March 9, 2019
Break first contact ✅
Downfield blocking ✅ pic.twitter.com/RG0NFmstWy
Back in May, special teams coach Mike Priefer named Johnson as one of the candidates competing for the kick return job too. He was an all-purpose back in college and is another candidate to be a receiving threat out of the backfield; so as much as Hilliard might be the favorite for the backup role, Johnson won’t just let him have it without a fight.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
6. Trayone Gray - Rookie RB
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 233 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: Rookie | College: Miami
Trayone Gray is an undrafted free agent out of Miami who the Browns signed after a tryout at rookie minicamp. Gray made some headlines before the draft by posting a pretty fast 40-time for a player of his size, and Gray claims that he’s been clock at a 4.37 before:
Trayone Gray discusses his pro day performance and that buzz-worthy 40 time he posted. pic.twitter.com/Z9fG7x5uSr— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) March 25, 2019
Although Gray says he can play running back, the most action he saw in college was as a fullback during his senior season, while also pitching in on special teams. Cleveland often went without a pure fullback last year, with Orson Charles in that role until he got hurt. We are listing Gray with the running backs here, but he figures to be more in competition with Charles for that fullback job, if the team decides to carry one.
Final Roster Odds: 5%
If the Browns kept either D’Ernest Johnson or Trayone Gray, who would you want to keep?
This poll is closed