There is a lot to anticipate for the Cleveland Browns’ upcoming 2022 season.
Will the Browns find a way to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Landry?
How much longer will Baker Mayfield be on the team?
But there is one question that hasn’t been pressed enough with all the other buzz going on in Cleveland Browns news…
What can be expected from third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson?
Johnson has seen a lot of playing time over the past two years with injuries to both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Shoutout to D'Ernest Johnson.
With Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt hurt, the Browns easily could've been embarrassed on national TV against Denver.
Instead it was the 146 yard D'Ernest show for the W.
Cheers to next year in Cleveland! pic.twitter.com/cWQ3MX77d9
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) March 11, 2022
He has racked up 700 yards on 133 carries for an average of 5.26 yards per carry over the past 2 seasons.
While 700 yards isn’t the biggest volume when it comes to evaluating a running back over the course of two years, it’s a sample size that still speaks to Johnson’s potential.
Some around the NFL believe he is a starter and has outgrown his complementary role.
However, for that same reason, it could make him invaluable for the Browns and Andrew Berry will do what he can to keep Johnson on the roster.
#Browns officially sent the RFA tender ($2.43 million) to RB D’Ernest Johnson today, per source. Browns will now be able to match any offer sheet that Johnson gets.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) March 14, 2022
Regardless, it’s clear Johnson deserves an increased role.
Why he will see more playing time
Johnson has proven to be reliable, and even with a healthy Chubb and Hunt, the Browns would be smart to get him on the field more.
This would give the team an unprecedented “one-two-three” punch running back trio.
#Browns D'Ernest Johnson among all qualifying RBs in 2021:
▪️ 22.0 broken/missed tackle rate (1st)
▪️ 1.57 rush yards over expected per attempt (2nd)
▪️ 47.0 positive play percentage (6th)
▪️ 0.06 EPA/attempt (7th)
Fairly limited sample size, but extremely encouraging output.
— Cody Suek (@CodySuek) March 11, 2022
Imagine a defense trying to prepare for three different top-tier running back styles.
It’s certainly something Browns fans could get excited about.
There is also the prospect of the Browns finally getting multiple running blacks on the field– something fans and players longed for last season.
Johnson gives the team a better chance to open this dynamic, as one running back can be resting while two are burning energy on the field.
Why he won’t see more playing time
As much as fans do love Johnson, there are few who would say he is in the same class of running back as Hunt and Chubb.
They have both proven to be elite running backs in multiple seasons and have impressive stats on much larger sample sizes.
Choosing to play Johnson over Hunt or Chubb could be ill-advised, as he is a good player versus his two great counterparts.
Johnson could be a great starter, but it shouldn’t be a competition if both Chubb and Hunt are healthy.
There is also the recent news of Johnson switching agents that must be considered.
— Faithful Dawgs Podcast (@FDPodcastCLE) April 12, 2022
Some think this move is Johnson and his team gearing up to negotiate a bigger contract for a starting role on another team.
And it would be hard to blame him if he did make this move, considering the potential he has at such a young age.
As much as the Browns do like Johnson, there might not be enough snaps to go around in the running back room.
Fans could see him running the ball for a new team sooner or later.