Browns Running Back Depth Chart Following Duke Johnson Trade

Dontrell Hilliard

Getty Cleveland Browns running back Dontrell Hilliard.

The Cleveland Browns granted running buck Duke Johnson Jr. his request on Thursday, trading the disgruntled running back to the Houston Texans for a draft pick.

The deal is reportedly for a fourth round pick that could become a third round pick if Johnson plays more than 10 games. It was a hefty price for the Texans to pay for Johnson, who has functioned mostly as the Browns third down back since entering the league in 2015. He’s never had more than 379 yards rushing.

Here are some trades for running backs over the last few years as a reference point.

  • 2019: Eagles trade a sixth-round pick for Chicago’s Jordan Howard
  • 2018: Browns get a fifth-round pick from Jacksonville in return for Carlos Hyde
  • 2017: Oakland gets Marshawn Lynch from Seattle for a sixth-round pick
  • 2016: Tennessee trades a sixth-round pick for Eagles back DeMarco Murray
  • 2015: Bills acquire LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso
  • 2014: Eagles trade for Saints’ RB Darren Sproles in exchange for a fifth-round pick
  • 2013: Browns send Trent Richardson to Colts for first-round pick

Johnson asked for a trade after the Browns announced they were bringing on free agent and 2017 NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt, who was released by the Kansas City Chiefs following disturbing video of him kicking and shoving a woman in a hotel being made public. Johnson has spent his entire four-year career with the Browns.

Last season, Johnson had 47 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns. He does most of his damage in the passing game. Johnson had 40 carries for 201 yards on the ground and both his number of carries and catches were career lows.

Nick Chubb is Atop the Browns Depth Chart

GettyCleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb.

For his second year in Cleveland, Nick Chubb is firmly installed as the starter for the Browns. He has been healthy this training camp, has looked sharp in his reps and has continued to improve on his pass catching out of the backfield.

Chubb, a Georgia product, started nine games last season, rushing for 996 yards. He would have eclipsed the much sought after 1,000-yard mark, but had his final carry of his rookie season go for a five-yard loss, knocking him back into the triple digits. He has his head coach Freddie Kitchens firmly on his side.

“Let me tell you something about Nick Chubb, and it sums it up for him. He went over 1,000 yards and then the next carry was for a loss of three or four – I do not know the specifics – and not a word was mentioned about it, not a word. I even apologized to him, but not a word was mentioned about going up and under 1,000 after he had 1,000,” Kitchens said. “That tells you what Nick Chubb is, what he is here for and how he approaches the game, and what the game is about for him. It is about winning. It is about winning a championship. It is about putting yourself in the best position possible to succeed individually and collectively as a team.”

Chubb also caught 20 balls for 149 yards and two touchdowns, but is expected to have a bigger role in the receiving game this year, especially with Johnson now gone.

Kareem Hunt Brings New Wrinkle, But Will Miss Half the Season With Ban

GettyCleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt

Hunt has racked up 2,151 rushing yards, 833 receiving yards in his first two seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017 as the league’s leading rusher and was on pace for another strong season before being let go by the Chiefs last season.

He’s been complimentary of his next backfield buddy Chubb so far.

“Chubb is a beast. He’s a freak. The guy runs hard and I respect his game a bunch. I love the way he runs the football.”

The Browns decided to take a chance this offseason when signing Hunt, who is looking for a second chance after a disturbing incident where he was caught on video kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel. General manager John Dorsey had a previous relationship with Hunt, having drafted him in Kansas City, which helped to Browns feel comfortable in bringing him aboard.

Hunt started camp on the active/non-football injury list with a groin injury and but made his debut over the weekend at the Orange and Brown Scrimmage.

Hunt has to serve an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He can participate in the Browns preseason games. When he is officially back in action, the Browns will have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.

Dontrell Hilliard Poised For Breakout Year With Browns

With Johnson disgruntled for most of the offseason, missing all of OTAs, it’s been Hilliard who has been able to make a name for himself at training camp with an increased workload.

“Dontrell is going to continue to work,” Kitchens said. “I have been pleased with Dontrell. He is not a finished product. He needs to keep working. We will see what we have at the end of all of this.”

Hilliard was picked up by the Browns as an undrafted free agent last offseason 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 game but did not receive a carry. However, he did catch nine balls for 105 yards and could be in the mix to return kicks.

Even with just limited time on the field, the running back feels like the game has slowed down a bit.

“You always are going to play on instinct and ability. At the same time, now I have understanding so I see certain fronts out there to recognize where my hole will be, instead of just going out pressing and pressing and hoping,” Hilliard said. “Now, I know exactly where to be so it is a better chance for me to read and move to second-level defenders.”

D’Ernest Johnson, Trayone Gray and A.J. Ouellette Round Out Depth Chart

The Browns will likely keep three running backs on the active roster, but have some guys battling for the final spots.

The Browns signed undrafted rookie D’Ernest Johnson this offseason after his stint in the AAF. He finished his year with the Orlando franchise ranked third in the league in rushing with 372 yards on 64 carries and two scores. Johnson played at USF and is the program’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage (4,186).

Rookie Trayone Gray was recently activated from the active/non-football injury list. He was dealing with a calf injury. Gray appeared in 10 games for the Hurricanes last year, rushing for just 83 yards and two touchdowns.

The Browns signed Ohio native A.J. Ouellette during training camp to help fill the depth chart when when Hunt, Johnson and Gray were all sidelined. He was previously an undrafted free agent who was originally with the Saints. He played his college ball at Ohio University.

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