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Browns Mailbag: What's Duke Johnson's role in the offense?

There's plenty of buzz about the quarterback position on this crisp, sunny Wednesday in Berea, but the questions filling up our inbox center on the run game -- on both sides of the ball.

We'll tackle a few of those to get things started.

What will Duke Johnson's role be with the team going forward? It seems as though he's a spell for Isaiah Crowell. Can we expect more usage out of him? -- Harold L., Silver Spring, Maryland

Johnson, who missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury and concussion, saw his snaps decrease from Week 1 to Week 2, but that's misleading. The Browns ran just 49 plays against the Titans compared to 71 against the Jets. His percentage of snaps went up, and a big reason for that likely has something to do with the Browns being able to run the ball in the fourth quarter against Tennessee. He picked up a key first down on the Browns' final offensive possession. Clearly, he's getting worked more and more into Cleveland's offensive plans.

When Johnson was drafted, he was pegged as a change-of-pace kind of player who would be just as dangerous out of the backfield as a pass-catcher as he would be as a runner. Now that Terrance West is gone, Johnson is simply the No. 2 option who can beat you as a runner and receiver in what Browns coach Mike Pettine mentioned Tuesday as a "committee" with Isaiah Crowell.

"I'd probably lean a little bit toward saying it's a committee," Pettine said on an interview with NFL Network. "Everything will be game-planned, who is a better matchup for who we're playing."

Crowell gave Cleveland one of the best games of his career against the Titans. Johnson was better, too, as he broke off a 20-yard run in the second quarter and finished with 43 yards. What was missing were the opportunities to make plays as a pass-catcher. Neither Johnson nor Crowell had a ball thrown in their direction. Don't expect that to be a trend.

The running back room promises to grow in the next couple of weeks, as the recently acquired Robert Turbin expects to be healthy at the start of October. That could affect Johnson's snaps, but it's clear the Browns want the rookie to be an integral part of their plans.

Why was there no penalty on what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit on McCown when we fumbled at the 1 in the Jets game? I don't think the hit was intentional, but I thought any time there was a helmet-to-helmet hit there would be a penalty called on the defender. -- Al G., Dayton

You know, that was my first thought when I saw the replay, and I felt that way in the hours after the game, too. But then I saw this tweet from Browns beat reporter Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, who checked with the NFL, and it made more sense why a flag wasn't thrown.

Those are the dangers a quarterback accepts when he leaves the pocket and turns into a runner. The Browns want McCown to use his athleticism to move the sticks, but they also want him to be back in the huddle for the next play.

Hey Andrew, I was just wondering if you knew any reason why Xavier Cooper is not suiting up? He was a force in the preseason and we traded up to get him. Thanks -- Troy H., Fenwick Island, Delaware

With seven defensive linemen on the active roster, the Browns simply aren't able to dress them all on game day given the team's relatively light injury situation. Cooper's absence, Pettine has said, has been a product of the Browns' depth. I'd expect we'll see Cooper on the field at some point relatively soon.

With all the offseason admittedly committed to stopping the run. How concerned should Browns fans be about the defense giving up over 150 yards in first two games? -- Mark C., Elida

No. 32 of 32 is not where the Browns wanted to be in the NFL rush defense rankings at any point in the season. Cleveland has been much better at stopping teams on runs up the middle -- big Danny Shelton can be thanked a bunch for that -- but the edge has been a major issue. Speedy Dexter McCluster came into Sunday's game with 214 rushing yards over the past three seasons and exited with a career-high 98. The loss of Scott Solomon certainly hurt, but the Browns need players like Armonty Bryant and Barkevious Mingo to step up and fill the void. Sunday will be another test against the Raiders' Latavius Murray, who isn't afraid to bounce runs to the outside.

Will the Browns win on Sunday? And will my other team the Ravens win as well? - David J., New York

A Browns fan AND a Ravens fan? Now that's a first.

I've got both squads winning Sunday. I just don't see how Baltimore could drop to 0-3.

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