Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson shares a backfield with Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb and admitted Thursday he’s feeling frustrated by the lack of touches he received in the first five games.
However, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, quarterback Tyrod Taylor—who has watched Baker Mayfield surpass him as the starting quarterback—gave Johnson a pep talk Wednesday that impacted the running back’s perspective.
“It could be frustrating but it wasn’t over the top,” Johnson said after the talk. “Just trying to figure it out.”
“He told me to just be more positive,” he added. “Just focus on all the good. It’s not all bad. It’s not all good. You’re going to have some days when you’re not feeling so well. Just find a way to get through it.”
The Miami product tallied 348 yards and four touchdowns on 82 carries last season, fairly pedestrian numbers in terms of running the ball. However, he impacted the game as a receiver with 74 catches for 693 yards and three scores.
That type of production is important for more than just point-per-reception fantasy leagues, as he served as a security blanket for the passing attack and as a dominant check-down option who kept drives alive.
Johnson’s receptions haven’t been coming at the same pace in 2018 with 10 for 91 yards. He is yet to find the end zone through the air or on the ground with 17 carries for 75 yards.
Cleveland added Hyde this offseason, and he has been the clear-cut starter with 100 carries for 348 yards and five touchdowns. If anything, Chubb should be the one frustrated with a lack of touches based on his head-turning 11.4 yards per carry in just 13 rushes. The rookie figures to be a building block in the future, but he has seen few opportunities behind Hyde.
As for Johnson, he can at least take solace knowing head coach Hue Jackson understands his ability to help the offense.
“Duke’s skillset allows us to do a lot of different things with him,” Jackson said, per Cabot. “As you see, we split him out a little bit this past week, and I’m sure we will do other things with him as we go. Duke is very talented. Obviously, when he has the ball in his hands, good things happen.”
Johnson will be hoping his expressed frustration and Taylor’s pep talk will help him make a bigger impact the rest of this season.