The current injury situation for the Cleveland Browns - especially on the offensive side of the ball — has become almost comically absurd at this point.
Consider that the Browns:
- are down their top two running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt
- have seen starting offensive tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin both miss multiple games
- have wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both dealing with injuries that will bother them the remainder of the season
- saw wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones hurt himself in pregame warmups before Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos
- are dealing with quarterback Baker Mayfield working his way through a completely torn labrum and fractured humerus bone in his left (non-throwing) shoulder that will not just magically heal itself overnight
There are a few bright spots amid all the doom and gloom, however.
Wills returned to the lineup against the Broncos after missing the previous two games and played the entire game for the first time all season. Landry played for the first time since Week 2 after coming off the injured reserve list, and while he and Beckham both had to leave for a brief spell, they were able to finish the game.
Having played on Thursday night, the Browns now have a few extra days of rest, which should be beneficial to Wills, Conklin, Landry, Beckham and Chubb.
The biggest bright spot from Thursday night, however, may have come from running back D’Ernest Johnson, who rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 22 receiving yards, in the first start of his NFL career.
Johnson joins Chubb and Hunt to give Cleveland three running backs to have more than 100 yards of offense in a single game, a feat that five NFL teams have yet to accomplish even once this season, according to clevelandbrowns.com.
The Browns can’t count on Johnson to put up those numbers every week, but his performance still takes some of the pressure off the team in the coming weeks.
Cleveland’s next game comes on October 31 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which will be three weeks since Chubb injured his calf. While there is speculation that Chubb will be able to return to the lineup for that game, Johnson’s performance against the Broncos gives Cleveland the option of not having to rush Chubb back onto the field in case he has a setback in practice next week.
Also, with Hunt on the injured list and possibly out for four to six weeks, having Johnson as a reliable backup to Chubb can help alleviate some of the production that the Browns are missing with Hunt not in the game.
The injury situation is still one that the Browns are going to have to deal with — especially when it comes to Mayfield and his ailing shoulder — but head coach Kevin Stefanski can at least rest a bit easier when it comes to the running back position knowing that Johnson is ready to answer the call.