But while that’s been going on, second-year running back Dontrell Hilliard has been making some headway.
ESPN named Hilliard their surprise offseason standout in a recently released article.
With Johnson requesting a trade, Hilliard could find himself with a good deal of work if the Browns do end up pulling the trigger on a deal.
Nick Chubb is the unquestioned starter, but there would be a huge hole behind the Georgia product for the first half of the season if Johnson is not on the roster, leaving Hilliard to pick up the slack.
The team signed Kareem Hunt in the offseason, which was the catalyst in Johnson’s trade request. However, Hunt is suspended for the first eight games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Hunt, who previously played for the Kansas City, was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list last fall following news that he was involved in an altercation with a woman at a Cleveland hotel.
Hilliard Could Be Secret Weapon For Cleveland Browns
Hilliard first took advantage of his time in the spotlight at Browns OTAs, impressing his coaches while Johnson was a no-show.
“When Freddie (Kitchens) asked me to join him, he had high praises for Dontrell,” Browns running backs coach Stump Mitchell said. “He’s got to believe that he belongs and we expect him to come out every day and make plays. I think what he has to understand is that he has to believe in himself as much as we believe in him. Now, he’s getting an opportunity. This is huge for him, and he’s having one heck of a spring training camp.”
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Hilliard was acquired as an undrafted free agent a year ago out of Tulane and spent the first month of the season on the practice squad. After being elevated to the active roster, he appeared in 11 games, did not receive a carry. He did catch nine balls for 105 yards and will be in the mix to return kicks.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens said at minicamp that each back has a package in the Browns’ new offense, in which Kitchens will calls the plays. He also maintained that Hilliard will have a solid role on the team thanks to what he has shown so far.
“Dontrell showed what he could do last year a little bit, but we had Duke and Duke had been doing it for a long time. Duke has been doing it for a long time and Duke still does it very well,” Kitchens said. “That is the whole reason we played three running backs. We felt like we have three running backs that can play football and could make plays. Dontrell will have a role in this offense anyway you can cut it, whether it is out wide or played wide receiver. You guys were not at practice earlier last week, but he played out wide some, played some receiver and plays in the slot. Dontrell will have a role.”