Browns Mailbag

Browns Mailbag: How much will Duke Johnson line up as a WR?

The countdown to training camp is now at just three short weeks. [



Where did the time go?

We're over the summer break hump and answering five of your questions.

Any thoughts about turning Duke Johnson into a wide receiver? -- Carl A., Ashland

That likely isn't in the future for Johnson because he brings so much value at running back, where he's a nice change of pace to bellcow Isaiah Crowell. Johnson increased his yards per carry from 3.6 as a rookie to 4.9 in 2016, and those numbers weren't skewed by a couple of long runs. His longest of the year went just 22 yards, proving that Johnson provided consistent chunk yardage when given the opportunity. That said, Johnson has very good hands and runs routes with the precision of a receiver, so he'll essentially line up as one here and there throughout the season -- as he's done the previous two years. Johnson has already cleared 1,000 receiving yards for his career and has 114 receptions.

"He is hungry, he is very knowledgeable, he is a great worker and he is committed to being the best that he can be," running backs coach/run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said. "He is one of our better leaders and one of our better playmakers. We expect big things from him starting in training camp."

With the Browns bringing in a lot of new talent on the offensive line what is the speculation as to who is going to start at what position when Week 1 rolls around? -- Ryan B., McConnell AFB, Kansas

At this point of the offseason, there appears to be just one area of uncertainty on the offensive line. With Joe Thomas anchored at left tackle, left guard Joel Bitonio set to return from a foot injury, and recently signed free agents JC Tretter (center) and Kevin Zeitler (right guard) joining the squad, right tackle remains the only question mark. Second-year player Shon Coleman and Cameron Erving will continue their competition at the spot during training camp. Erving started the final game of 2016 at right tackle while Coleman got snaps here and there throughout his rookie year.

"Shon Coleman has done an outstanding job," Browns coach Hue Jackson said at the end of minicamp. "Cam is battling. Those guys are doing well. Somebody is going to really assert themselves here when the pads come on because that is when we will find out more, but both of them have done some good things. They are growing and getting better every day.

"The fun part about them both is they have the versatility to play on the left side, too. In the group, between those two guys and I am sure some others will surface, too, I think we have some candidates that can get the job done."

Before Bitonio and Kirksey, when was the last time two players from the same draft class received a second contract from the Browns? -- Bill J., Akron

So this question is interesting and has some layers to it. The simple answer is this is the first time it's happened during the new Browns era (1999). The catch, though, is rookie contracts are different now than they were before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011. For example, 2006 first-round pick Kamerion Wimbley was signed to a six-year deal coming out of college. The first pick of the new Browns era, QB Tim Couch, got a seven-year deal. Now? First-round picks get four-year deals with a fifth-year option while the rest of the picks get four-year deals.

One of the main goals of Cleveland's current front office is to make what's happened with Bitonio and Kirksey a regular occurrence. That means better drafting and better retention of talent.

Love the Browns here. As great as Joe Thomas is, do we have someone learning from him to take over LT in the future? -- Ken T., Melbourne, Australia

There are a couple of candidates on the current roster in Coleman and Rod Johnson. A fifth-round pick this past year, Johnson played left tackle throughout his entire college career and has exclusively worked at the position thus far. He got some valuable experience in minicamp and OTAs as a member of the first-team group while Thomas rested. Coleman, meanwhile, is a left tackle by trade and recently said he still feels more comfortable on that side of the line because of his experience playing the position.

I always hear talk from the media about the interior defensive linemen but no news about Danny Shelton. How has he been looking and how will they use him in the new scheme with him being a natural nose tackle? -- Steve K., Corry, Pennsylvania

Shelton had a productive offseason workout program and is getting the grasp on his new responsibilities as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Like all of the players on Gregg Williams' defense, Shelton is being tasked to learn multiple spots. He's been challenged by defensive line coach Clyde Simmons to demand double-teams and make his presence felt in opposing backfields.

"I'm at the point where I'm a veteran and I need to do something about this and if we're going to change, it's going to start with the D-line," Shelton said. "I'm excited with what we have in the room."

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