It brought to end months of speculation and drama surrounding Johnson, with a good portion of that being linked to quarterback Baker Mayfield’s comments at minicamp when asked about the situation.
“If somebody wants to be here, they’ll be here,” Mayfield said. “You got guys within our locker room that are dying to get playing time, that are dying to be here. I get it, Duke has been here for years and I respect that but it is about what are you doing right now.”
With Johnson finally not wearing the orange and brown, Mayfield spoke on the issue following the Browns 30-10 victory over the Washington Redskins in the preseason.
“That is obviously not my call,” Mayfield said. “We talked about it. They wanted people who wanted to be there, and Duke was there. Unfortunately, he got hurt and then the decision was made to trade him away. We have to have the next man up mentality so tonight you saw a lot of Dontrell Hilliard. We are going to be counting on guys that continue to step up and see who can fill the void because Duke was obviously a huge part of our offense last year.”
Watch the full interview below.
Baker Mayfield Confident in Browns Running Game With Duke Johnson
The Browns got a taste of what their backfield will look like for the first eight games of the season with Nick Chubb and Dontrell Hilliard getting some work in early work. Hilliard is currently slated to be the No. 2 back when the season beings, with newly signed free agent Kareem Hunt — who led the NFL in rushing in 2017 — serving an eight-game suspension.
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Chubb had just one carry in the contest that went for 12 yards, while Hilliard had 12 total touches (9 rushes, 3 catches). Hilliard — a second-year back and former undrafted free agent — collected 19 yards rushing and 34 receiving against the Redskins, but he also lost a fumble in an important moment on the goal line.
While the preseason performance was a little uneven from the former Tulane RB, Mayfield thinks Hilliard’s style will fill the need for a third down back with Johnson out of the picture.
“We have to have guys who are making plays at all times and ready to step up,” Mayfield said. “I would say just that third down back style that everyone wants to say and just being a receiver out of the backfield, that can be lethal for an offense to have when the defense wants to double team receivers like we have. We have to have somebody out of the backfield at all times that can catch the ball.”
Browns Not Willing to ‘Risk’ Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham
While many of the starters saw at least a sliver of time in the exhibition matchup against the Redskins, two notable Browns that were not on the field were star wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Head coach Freddie Kitchens said in his postgame press conference that it wasn’t worth the “risk” to have them on the field for the inconsequential contest.
“I did not think it was worth the risk. They have been trying to fight through a couple of minor things, nothing to write home about, per se. No reason.”
The Browns next preseason game is on the road Aug. 17 against the Colts.