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Why is Duke Johnson Limited So Far?

Duke Johnson has been talked up by coaches, media and fans alike. Yet, so far in two games, he has been limited and it is perplexing.

When Hue Jackson took over the Cleveland Browns he spoke of creating a power run team. Many believed that the team was lacking their version of Jeremy Hill but had their version, and better, of Giovani Bernard in Duke Johnson

Some even wondered if the 2nd year pro out of Miami might take on some of the workhorse load, despite his size.

Yet, here we are two games into the season and Johnson is all but missing from the run game plan. Duke has only carried the ball 6 times, compared to Isaiah Crowell's 30, even though he is putting up a very good 7.4 yards per carry average. (To be statistically fair, his small sample size and 20 yard gain have a big influence on that last number.)

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Johnson has been very active in the passing game, tied for the team lead with 7 pass receptions but even that is a bit of a misnomer in terms of his role. Both weeks Duke was targeted 5 times. He has caught 7 of the 10 balls thrown his way, a solid number, but his time on the field is another story.

In Week 1, Duke only saw 23 snaps on the field, 44% of the team's total offensive snaps while in Week 2 his time rose slightly to 31 snaps and 50% of the snaps.

It isn't for lack of talent that Johnson isn't on the field. His 20 yard run, his great hands on 3rd down while playing out wide as a wide receiver and his constant fighting for yards should earn him quality playing time. Limiting his use to mostly passing plays also signals the defense to what is coming.

So why the limited snaps for Johnson?

We can start with Crowell. The undrafted RB has played well so far this season. In his 30 carries he is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, with his 85-yard touchdown skewing that number slightly. He has had two runs of over 20 yards, has two TDs, accounted for six 1st downs and hasn't fumbled the ball.

Crow's style and size also fit better as the bell cow back of the offense.

Jackson has also shown a limited willingness to have both Crow and Johnson on the field at the same time. Alternating Crowell and Johnson makes sense, Crow has only 8 snaps than Johnson, but putting them on the field together could cause havoc. So why haven't we seen that?

The Browns actually have a lot of offensive talent which makes it tough to find room for both RBs on the field at the same time. Instead of both Duke and Crow, Jackson runs out fullback Malcolm Johnson and backup TE Randall Telfer, who is a good blocker, for many running plays. On passing downs, Duke is joined by some combination of Corey ColemanTerrelle PryorGary BarnidgeAndrew Hawkins and even Rashard Higgins

Finally, Johnson has seen far less production because the Browns have been throwing the ball more than running. Jackson has stated his desire to run the ball but the Browns, due to score in Game 1 and who knows what in Game 2, have went away from the run. QBs Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown have thrown the ball 15 times more than they have handed it off.

With Crow getting so many carries on his snaps, this has left little room for Johnson.

Duke Johnson has a lot of hype behind him but hasn't had a ton of chances so far in this young season. Without an injury, will he get his shots or has Hue decided he is best in a limited role as primarily a pass catcher?

What do you think of the usage of Duke so far?


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