Call him the closer.
Duke Johnson hasn’t carried the ball much this season but he had it in his hands when it mattered most against the Ravens. His three carries for a combined 24 yards as the clock wound down in overtime helped set up Greg Joseph’s game-winning field goal.
It was the sixth win of Johnson’s four-year career. It’s hard to find anyone who took the losing of the past to heart more than Johnson, and now he’s thrilled to be a part of a team with some legitimate momentum.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Johnson as the Browns wrapped up their preparations for the Chargers.
CB.com: You’re going into Week 6 with a couple of wins under your belt after a couple of rough years. What’s it feel like to finally get that winning feeling going in your fourth season?
Johnson: It’s a great feeling, especially when we’re not surprising ourselves when we win. We’re competing with some of the best teams, especially the first couple of weeks; tied one, lost one. We’re just trying to keep the momentum going.
CB.com: For you in particular, I know the losing was tough on you. How tough were those first two weeks when you guys came oh so close but were still waiting?
Johnson: It was definitely tough. I think it was a different feeling knowing that the first game we didn’t lose, we tied, and the second game we knew we were supposed to win that game. Going forward from that, it’s about stacking wins now.
CB.com: When you stepped in here from offseason workouts, when did you know this was a different team?
Johnson: I didn’t really judge the team. The team didn’t show me anything until the regular season. When we got behind, we were able to fight back and show what kind of team we are. I don’t like to base anything off preseason or practice. It’s all about the game and how we’re doing.
CB.com: Coach Hue Jackson talked earlier this week about the team needing to stay grounded after picking up a couple of wins. How has that message resonated in the locker room?
Johnson: It’s the same guys. I don’t think this locker room needs a reminder that we haven’t done anything yet. It’s a lot of guys in this locker room who know we haven’t done anything. While the reminder is good, we don’t necessarily need it because we know we haven’t done anything.
CB.com: You were kind of the closer at the end of last week’s game. What was opening up for you there and how’d that feel to get it done for the team?
Johnson: The O-line did everything. Literally everything. I just stayed true to my track and ran where the hole opened up.
CB.com: What was going through your mind during the field-goal attempt?
Johnson: I was with Damarious (Randall) during the kick. We were like, ‘we’re not going to look and we’ll listen to the crowd and the crowd will tell us whether we won or not.’ We sat there, we heard the crowd, we knew the game was over and we won.
The Browns' roster as of June 13, 2019.
CB.com: What do you like about what this offense has been able to accomplish so far?
Johnson: I think people are making plays when it matters. We’re trying to get more guys to make more plays more often earlier than later. It’s about someone stepping up when we need them the most.
CB.com: How about the makeup of the backfield?
Johnson: The main thing we enjoy about the backfield is we push each other in practice and in the games. We all root for each other and want everyone to do well. We know what we all bring to the table. We all lean on each other and depend on each other and push each other to be the best we can be.
CB.com: You’ve been through some home games here where the seats aren’t exactly full. That’s changed this year. What have you thought of it?
Johnson: It’s awesome. It’s always been awesome, whether we’re losing or not. It’s a different feeling when you’re winning and you’re winning close games. You’re giving them something to cheer about.
CB.com: How much has Baker Mayfield changed the outlook of this offense?
Johnson: He’s making plays within the offense. He’s not trying to do too much. He’s just doing his job. The biggest thing is young guys like (Derrick) Willies step up like he did last week and keep having young guys like (Antonio) Callaway and Baker making more plays.
CB.com: What about his presence in the huddle?
Johnson: He’s a quarterback. He’s demanding in the huddle and he demands the respect. He’s very confident when he’s in the huddle.
CB.com: What have you seen from this Chargers defense?
Johnson: They have one of the better, if not the best, pass rushers/defensive players in the league in (Melvin) Ingram. I think just knowing where he’s at and the best way to slow him down, then we’ll be able to have a good game. Overall, their defense wants to be physical. They’re a physical defense and we know it’s a physical defense. They impose their will on a lot of teams, playing downhill, smash-mouth football. We never think it’s going to be a cake walk. We never think it’s going to be an easy game.
CB.com: It looks like you could be more involved in the passing game this week after the team lost Rashard Higgins. How do you expect it to affect your role?
Johnson: I’m not sure as of yet. I guess we’ll figure it out game time.