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15 burning questions for RB Duke Johnson

Posted Dec 16, 2017

The versatile playmaker leads Cleveland in receptions and receiving yards

Duke Johnson Jr. is admittedly not a fan of cold weather, but there’s been no cooling off his performance during his third NFL season.

The do-it-all Browns running back is running away with the team lead in receptions (56) and is the leader in receiving yards (497). He’s also averaging 4.4 yards every time he touches it on the ground, making him one of the Cleveland offense’s most versatile playmakers.

ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Johnson as he prepared for his second matchup of the season with the Ravens, who boast one of the NFL’s toughest defenses.

CB.com: You guys practiced in the snow both Wednesday and Thursday. As a Miami guy, how’d you feel about that?

Johnson: It wasn’t bad. I think we came in prepared as we do every week. It’s just about going out there and executing.

CB.com: How have you adjusted to the weather in your third season?

Johnson: I’m pretty adjusted. My rookie year was the toughest and then the following year wasn’t bad. I’m kind of used to it now.

CB.com: You ever get any comments from family members about it?

Johnson: My mom always comes up here and complains about how cold it is. She can’t get used to it.

CB.com: When you look at what you’ve accomplished this season, where do you think you’ve grown as a running back and where do you think you can get even better?

Johnson: Going into the offseason, I think I need to work on my stiff-arm more. It’s a part of my game I need to work on more. I’m getting tackled too much by my arm. To me, it’s wherever I can help as a player on this team, receiver or running back. I have to help. My main focus in the offseason is going out there and sharpening up everything I can, being more crisp as a receiver, so I can come back and do everything.

CB.com: Does it seem like there are more backs like you around the NFL than there was when you were drafted?

Johnson: Yeah. I believe backs like myself create a mismatch against a lot of teams that love man-to-man, loves to play linebackers on running backs and keep their base defense on the field. It’s changing the way defenses play us now.

CB.com: You’ve played the Ravens a bunch of times now in your three years here. What makes them a tough defense?

Johnson: I believe it’s their grit, bend-but-don’t-break mindset. When we played them the first game, it was getting down to the goal line and they caused turnovers. We drove, drove, drove but they found a way to make a play.

CB.com: How much have they changed since Week 2?

Johnson: It’s the same defense. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. There’s not much change. It’s late in the year, so guys may be moving slower on both sides because of the weather and no one is 100 percent now. Outside of that, this is the same gritty defense. It’s still a defense that will attack the run and go after your quarterback with their pass rush.

CB.com: You mentioned this is the time of year where guys slow down a little bit. Does that open things up a little in the running game?

Johnson: It could be. Joe Thomas loves this kind of weather. Anytime it gets around this time and it starts snowing, Joe Thomas gets happier than he always is. He’ll say they don’t get as much traction and our guys are running fast off the ball. That could be a reason.

CB.com: What was working with the running attack against the Packers?

Johnson: I feel like it was balanced for the most part. Josh (Gordon) coming out on the opening play and making a play kind of backed them up and made them softer in the box. That allowed me and (Isaiah) Crowell to make big plays. We’re trying to keep the running game going this week.

CB.com: How does Gordon change this offense?

Johnson: It gives you another person to scheme for, another person to match up on. You have to figure out ways to take him out of the game and try to put a safety over top and put a corner underneath. That’s two people that aren’t focused on the run anymore. If a team loves to play the safety in the box, with a guy like Josh it’s tough for them to do it because of his presence.

CB.com: How different is DeShone Kizer since the last time you played the Ravens?

Johnson: I don’t believe we turn the ball over as much. That game, we had quite a few turnovers. We know for the most part you can win a lot of games in this league if you find a way to take care of the ball. It’s what we’re pushing toward and that’s something that’s different than when we played them the first time.

CB.com: Are the last few weeks a sign this offense is headed in the right direction?

Johnson: Winning ultimately is above everything else. It’s all about winning. The offense can do good but then the defense doesn’t. Then the defense does good and the offense doesn’t. At the end of the day, we all have to do it on the same day at the same time.

CB.com: What’s the feeling in the locker room when you face this three-game stretch trying to get a win?

Johnson: We know what we have to do. It’s just about going out there and doing it. We always have a good game plan. We always know exactly what to do and how to do it. Things don’t go our way and at the end we don’t find a way.

CB.com: It seems like this group has done a good job staying focused on the task at hand. What’s been the driving force behind it?

Johnson: Winning. The last three have been the closest we’ve gotten. The focus is more and more on winning.

CB.com: Last year when you guys pulled off the first victory, it was pretty emotional for everyone in the locker room. Do you get the sense it will be like that again?

Johnson: I don’t know. I think the Christmas time helps, too. I’m just trying to get the first one first.

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