Browns Running Back Needs ‘Strong Case’ To Avoid Cut

Getty Images D'Ernest Johnson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have arguably the best running back duo on the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. While neither of their roster spots are at risk, the No. 3 running back spot will be a battle between D’Ernest Johnson and rookie Demetric Felton.

Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot of broke down some of the players who could be on the chopping block and Johnson landed on the list, with Felton as the top candidate to take his spot.

Johnson is entering his third season with the Browns, playing a minor role the past two years. He has carried the ball 37 times for 187 yards during his career in Cleveland, also playing a role returning the ball on special teams.

Felton was a sixth-round pick of the Browns in this year’s draft and his versatility has been highly touted. He rushed for 1,101 yards, averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns in his four seasons at UCLA. He also snagged 99 receptions for 958 yards and eight touchdowns and found the end zone once as a returner.

Felton’s Versatility a Big Plus for Browns

Demetric Felton

When it comes to wrangling a roster spot, Felton’s versatility gives him an edge. He could supply depth at both the running back and wide receiver position, also returning kicks when needed.

“I feel like I can go in there and play whatever position they want me to,” Felton told reporters after being selected by the Browns. “I don’t really have a preference. I feel like I can play both positions at a very high level.”

Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt gave Felton — who he called a “running receiver back” — a solid review during mini-camp.

“He is a running receiver back right now for us,” Van Pelt said. “The good news is he can play in both spots and gives us some flexibility. Earlier on in the OTAs, we were a little down on numbers at receiver. That is probably why you saw him more at receiver than you did at running back. He is a guy that came in, he is very smart, he loves football, he puts the time in and he has flashed out there in these OTAs.”

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer also had good things to say about Felton.

“I really like Demetric’s attitude. I liked his intelligence. He has a great personality. He loves the game of football,” Priefer said. “Everything you are looking for in a young player. He has great quickness. I truly believe he has an opportunity to be a dual returner, and I truly believe he can help us as a gunner and on kickoff coverage because he has the right mindset, he likes the game, he is tough, he is available and he is accountable.”

Mack Wilson Has Worked His Way Into Good Graces

GettyBrowns linebacker Mack Wilson.

Defensive end Curtis Weaver and receiver/return man JoJo Natson were the other players listed by Cabot that could be potential cuts. But a more interesting note was one about linebacker Mack Wilson, who has battled his way back into the good graces of the team with a strong offseason, per Cabot. Here’s what she had to say about the third-year linebacker out of Alabama.

At one point I thought Mack Wilson needed to step up his game because of the acquisitions at weakside linebacker, but he’s done that and had an excellent spring. He’s attached himself at the hip to Anthony Walker, and has worked harder than ever.

Wilson is coming off a second season that was rocky from the start with a hyperextended knee during training camp. When he did get on the field, it wasn’t pretty. He played in 13 games with eight starts, recording just 39 tackles.

The Browns will play a lot of nickel defense next year under Joe Woods, so expect Walker and rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoha to eat up a lot of the reps. Sione Takitaki, Jacob Phillips and veteran Malcolm Smith will also be competing for their spots on the depth chart.

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