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The Cleveland Browns traded halfback Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans in exchange for a conditional fourth round pick in 2020. In four years, John had 2,170 receiving yards, 1,286 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Although they have Nick Chubb as the starter, the Browns will now have a hole to fill as the third down running back, or a running back who is skilled at pass catching or pass blocking.
They picked free agent running back Kareem Hunt who has proven to be a stellar pass catcher out the backfield but due to his eight game suspension, the Browns are in dire need of a replacement for Johnson.
Seen as the favorite for the spot is Dontrell Hilliard. Hilliard ran for 19 yards on nine attempts but also had three receptions on six passes for 34 yards against the Washington Redskins in week one of the preseason. He got the day off on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts for the second preseaon game.
Other backs to watch for include D’Ernest Johnson and Trayvone Gray. Johnson made his name known in the now defunct Alliance of American Football where he starred for the Orlando Apollos.
In Saturday’s game against the Colts, Johnson made a strong case by rushing for 53 yards on 10 carries and caught three passes for 26 yards including a touchdown in the win.
Gray comes out of University of Miami. He didn’t have a productive game rushing for a minus one yards on four attempts.
The pick that the Browns received will also fall into general manager John Dorsey’s wheelhouse. If Johnson is active for 10 games, the pick will be converted from a fourth round pick to a third round pick. Between Kansas City and Cleveland, Dorsey has drafted the following players in the third round: halfback Hunt, cornerback Steven Nelson and tight end Travis Kelce.
While Johnson will be definitely get more looks in Houston, Cleveland will get a chance to give more looks to their potential future. The trade gives more confidence to featured back Chubb but also a boost of confidence to the competition that has now opened up for Browns in third down back race.
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