The running backfield is crowded with the Cleveland Browns going into the 2022 NFL season.
Even with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, the Browns have three other running backs currently on the roster.
However, D’Ernest Johnson is the one running back that stands out from the remaining ones on the roster.
While Cleveland resigned him in 2022, it’s a mystery how much playing time he’ll get this season.
This is because of Hunt and Chubb, the two workhorses of the Browns’ ground game.
But even with them on the roster, he got some playing time last season.
He did well with the limited playing time he saw, getting a 90.6 rushing grade from PFF during 2021.
D’ernest Johnson, a standout RB that has shine every opportunity he’s been given!!
2021 Stars: 100 rushes, 534 yards, 3 TDs, 5.3 ypc
— Down With The Browns Podcast (@DWTB_) January 26, 2022
Does this now mean we could see more of him in 2022 with a Browns offense needing all the help they can get?
Hunt And Chubb’s Health Are Biggest Factor With Johnson’s Playing Time
While Johnson made the best of the playing time he got, it only came to him because of Chubb dealing with an injury.
The bulk of his playing time came in week seven and week ten of the 2021 season.
Both games saw Chubb missing action, and Johnson taking over the starting role.
He’s also been in the lineup to fill in for Hunt when needed.
That’s why their health is an enormous factor in the amount of playing time he gets.
However, if the team were to cut Hunt, he would see more playing time immediately.
D’Ernest Johnson has been a staple last round pick in Best Ball drafts for me.
He’s essentially two RB handcuffs in one.
If either Chubb or Hunt were to miss time, he immediately fills a valuable role.
Not to mention, if CLE were to cut Hunt, Johnson immediately fills the role
— Preston (@FF_Engineer_) July 11, 2022
But that doesn’t seem likely for 2022, with Hunt looking to make an impact this season.
While it isn’t a thing for 2022, next year is a different story for both Hunt and Johnson.
Johnson’s Impact In 2022 Could Decide If He’s A Starter Next Year
With everyone wanting to see what role Johnson plays in 2022, 2023 might see him as a starter.
Both he and Hunt will become free agents next year.
So if Johnson does well this year, or Hunt has another off year or gets injured again, he could become a starter in 2023.
Of course, he’s the second running back behind Chubb, who will clearly maintain the RB1 role for Cleveland.
However, being the second starting running back will give Johnson a bigger role with the team and more snaps.
He’s already proven he’s ready to carry the load when the team needs him most.
With 100 carry and 534 yards last season, he shows the Browns that they can trust him with the ball.
Browns Should Use Johnson More To Take Burden Off Chubb And Hunt
With both Chubb and Hunt dealing with injuries last season, it would be wise to use Johnson more this year.
It would help keep those two stars healthy, while still giving the team a reliable running back.
His season last year proves he’s just as good as both of the Cleveland star running backs.
The team loses nothing by giving him more playing time.
With Johnson playing more, there’s nothing but upsides to that decision for the Browns.
Let’s hope that Kevin Stefanski calls on number 30 more often in 2022.