The Houston Texans had a need for a reserve running back and they’ve moved to fill it with a player who badly wanted a new opportunity.
The team announced Thursday that it had acquired running back Duke Johnson from the Cleveland Browns, with a conditional draft pick headed the other way.
Johnson immediately enters the picture to back up starter Lamar Miller after Houston surprisingly waived D’Onta Foreman earlier in the week. Their new acquisition had fallen out with teammates following his trade request, so this will come as a relief to him as well.
Johnson has 1,286 rushing yards and five touchdowns over four seasons, primarily as a reserve. He’s a pretty solid backup option who should ensure that the Texans won’t miss a beat if Miller isn’t on the field.
Baker Mayfield has never been one to shy away from calling out critics or opponents, and apparently the quarterback applies those same principles to his teammates when he feels they deserve it.
Browns running back Duke Johnson confirmed to reporters at minicamp on Tuesday that he wants the team to trade him, claiming he was put on the trade block before he made the request anyway. Mayfield was asked about the situation a short time after, and he had some harsh words for the running back.
Johnson was already a distant second on the depth chart behind Nick Chubb, and he will have an even tougher time finding touches once Kareem Hunt returns from his eight-game suspension. The former third-round pick obviously wants to play for a team that can give him an opportunity to play a bigger role, but Mayfield thinks he should honor his commitment and do whatever the team needs.
There were at least two teams reportedly interested in Johnson before the draft, so perhaps he will get his wish. If not, there may be some tension between him and his quarterback.
Duke Johnson is going to have a difficult time finding touches in the Cleveland Browns’ offense once Kareem Hunt returns from his eight-game suspension, and the running back is hoping to be traded before that becomes an issue.
Johnson did not attend voluntary offseason workouts with the Browns, and a report back in April claimed his representatives had informed the team that the former Miami star wants to play elsewhere. Johnson confirmed that at minicamp on Tuesday, though he said Cleveland was shopping him in trade talks before he made the request.
“My trade request was to meet them on a middle ground,” Johnson said. “I was put on the trade block a month before I requested a trade, so that’s all it is.”
Johnson added that he won’t be a “disgruntled employee” if the Browns don’t move him before Week 1, but he wants to avoid a situation like the one where Carlos Hyde was traded in the middle of the season.
Johnson, who is entering his fifth NFL season, averaged 5.0 yards per carry in 2018 and played a decent role in the passing game with 47 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns, but he’s a clear No. 2 behind Nick Chubb and will be even further down the depth chart when Hunt’s suspension is up. At least two teams are said to have expressed interest in acquiring Johnson earlier in the offseason, but it may be tougher to find a home for him now that the draft has come and gone.
Another disgruntled member of the Cleveland Browns appears to be on his way out of the organization.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, running back Duke Johnson’s representatives have asked the Browns for a trade, and Johnson was absent from the team’s voluntary offseason program on Monday.
Johnson has also wiped his social media accounts of Browns-related pictures, another indication that he wants out.
Johnson’s fate appeared sealed when Cleveland signed controversial running back Kareem Hunt. That immediately made Johnson expendable, and a trade demand is only the next logical step in his exit from the organization. At least two teams could be interested in adding the running back, who has rushed for 1,286 yards and five touchdowns over the course of his four-year career with Cleveland.
Duke Johnson seems like a natural trade candidate, and a few NFC East teams reportedly have interest in him.
The Cleveland Browns signed controversial running back Kareem Hunt last month, giving them an overflow of capable backs. In addition to Hunt and Johnson, they also have Nick Chubb, a second-round pick last year who rushed for just under 1,000 yards as a rookie.
On Monday, Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported that several teams had interest in trading for Johnson. Miami reporter Andy Slater says that the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are two of the teams that have trade interest in Johnson.
Johnson was a third-round pick by the Browns in 2015 out of Miami. He only had 40 carries last season, though he remains a big factor in the passing game. Johnson had 47 catches for 429 yards and 3 touchdowns and has 2,170 receiving yards during his career.
Philly has a mixture of backs including Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Josh Adams. Jay Ajayi is a free agent. Dallas has Ezekiel Elliott but may like Johnson as a third-down option.
The Cleveland Browns will be looking to win their fifth game of the season when they host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but their backfield may be a little shorthanded.
Duke Johnson Jr. has not been with the Browns this week after his grandmother passed away, and Michael Silver of NFL.com reports that the running back may not return to the team in time for Sunday’s game.
Johnson has not been a big part of the running game with the emergence of rookie Nick Chubb, but he has 36 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Baker Mayfield often looks to Johnson as a safety valve in passing situations, so his absence could hurt Cleveland in what suddenly looks like a winnable game against a Panthers team that is 1-5 on the road.
UPDATE: Johnson was present for practice on Friday, which should put him on track to play Sunday.
Every NFL team has that one offensive player who makes his team go. It can often be the quarterback, but some offenses are built around a talented running back or a dominant No. 1 receiver.
Which offensive player is most vital to each team’s success? Which player does everyone look to to get it done when it’s most needed? Here’s a look.
Arizona Cardinals — David Johnson, RB
It’s not really a coincidence that the Cardinals struggled so much last season after Johnson suffered a season-ending wrist injury after just 11 carries in the season opener. The 26-year-old scored 20 touchdowns the year before, so losing him meant the absence of their biggest playmaker. He should be ready to go this season, and Arizona will be desperate for him to return to the form that saw him lead the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Atlanta Falcons — Julio Jones, WR
The Falcons will want to get Jones’s contract situation squared away as quickly as possible, because Matt Ryan needs him. His yardage numbers are incredible, and he’s collected at least 1,400 yards receiving in every season since 2014, even in spite of the occasional health issue. 1,500 yards is well within reach for Jones if he is healthy in 2018.
A year of losing — and going in and out of the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback role — seems to have taken a toll on DeShone Kizer’s confidence.
That, at least, is according to running back Duke Johnson, who believes the rough year in Cleveland has significantly hurt the rookie’s self-belief.
“He’s a young kid and he’s still learning and he has all the ability,” Johnson said, via Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. “I mean, his confidence is probably shot, but that’s where his teammates and his family, his friends come in. They keep him up.”
Kizer, for what it’s worth, disputed that his confidence has been heavily dented.
“No, not at all,” Kizer said. “My confidence will always remain high.”
It would be easy to understand why Kizer isn’t feeling great. His team is 0-14, for one thing. Plus, after a season of being talked up, his coach is backtracking on his status as the entrenched quarterback of the future, which should worry him a bit with the Browns set to land the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Through the first five weeks of the NFL season, some familiar names sit atop the offensive statistical categories. Quarterbacks like Rodgers and Brady lead many passing categories, while receivers like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown top many receiving categories. But there are some fresh faces in the league doing big things, as well as a few surprises emerging with their clubs.
Here’s a look at each NFL team’s best offensive skill player so far in 2017.
Arizona Cardinals — J.J. Nelson, WR
Larry Fitzgerald still has more catches and yardage, but in terms of big plays, it is Nelson who has paced the Cardinals this season. He has the highest yards per catch of any Arizona wide receiver, and his two touchdowns are tied with Fitzgerald for the team lead. It’s only a matter of time before he is the No. 1 receiver in Arizona. Nelson is already getting plaudits now — his five catch, 120 yard performance in Week 2 earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Atlanta Falcons — Devonta Freeman, RB
Impressively, Freeman alone has five touchdowns this season — as many as quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown for over the same amount of games. Those five touchdowns are good enough to tie him for the NFL lead with Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars. His yardage total doesn’t jump off the page — at 285 yards, he’s only 13th in the NFL — but he’s scoring touchdowns. That’s been huge for the Falcons in a year where Ryan hasn’t quite rediscovered his best form yet.
Every NFL team has a series of superstars on both offense and defense who steal the limelight, but in order for a team to be successful, they need quality starters at every position and strong reserves/role players.
Often, it’s those role players who are ultimately the difference between a championship run or a story about what could have been.
Here’s a look at every NFL team’s key role player.
Arizona Cardinals – John Brown, wide receiver
This spot could have just as easily have gone to wide receiver J.J. Nelson, but John Brown has been an under-the-radar gem for the Cardinals several years running. He finished fourth on the team in all purpose yards (697) in 2016 despite starting only six games, and did his damage through the air, on the ground and returning both kicks and punts. Unfortunately he is currently being limited by a quad injury.
Atlanta Falcons – Adrian Clayborn, defensive end
After starting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over four seasons, Adrian Clayborn joined the Falcons as a reserve and like many others on defense, plays a key role. A rotational defensive end with quality experience, Clayborn recorded 7.5 sacks with Atlanta over his first two seasons and provides a solid third-and-long option. The 29-year-old has one sack this season, and made his presence felt with a big hit on Aaron Rodgers in Week 2.