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Dynamic RB Duke Johnson a bright spot for Browns: 'It's 29's job to make a play'

If it seems like good things happen whenever Duke Johnson touches the ball, you're not alone in that observation.

"We're trying," head coach Hue Jackson said Monday with a laugh when asked if the dynamic running back's role will continue to increase. "I think the other team knows he's a guy who's making plays, so they're going to do everything they can to take him away.

Johnson accounted for 104 yards on eight touches in Sunday's loss to the Colts. That included a 19-yard touchdown run he punctuated by leaping into the end zone. Of Cleveland's 10 longest plays, Johnson totaled four of them (25 yards, 23, 19 and 16).  

Whether it's in the backfield or out wide in the slot, Johnson said he relishes the opportunity to be something of an impact player for the Browns. It doesn't matter where he lines up.

"I like to think of it as, my one job on this team is to make plays regardless of where it is on the field, when it is in the game," he said. "It's 29's job to make a play."

On an offense that has struggled to find a consistent rhythm with eight new starters, Johnson has been a bright spot with 17 touches (six runs, 11 catches) for 204 yards and a touchdown in three games.

"He's very comfortable in space when he detaches. That's not the case with most running backs," run game coordinator and running backs coach Kirby Wilson said last week.

"A lot of those guys are stay at home, and when they get out in space, they are like some of our friends when they go to the mall parking lot. They're lost. He is not that type of guy. He is very comfortable in space.

Johnson, now in his third NFL season since he was drafted by the Browns in the third round, was a versatile threat at Miami with 595 touches for 4,238 yards and 30 touchdowns. Though most of that came as a runner (Johnson had 1,652 rushing yards in his final season with the Hurricanes), he added 412 receiving yards and 11.1 yards a catch.

"He's been a route runner before in his past growing up as a youth and through college. This is something that's not new to him," Wilson said.

"He's excited about the opportunity to get out in space and run routes, but he also enjoys being a halfback. He knows when the game is on the line, he would like to touch the football. He has shared that with me before."

Johnson made that case this past weekend in Indianapolis.

"Duke has done a good job," Jackson said, "made some huge plays (Sunday) and is working at it. He'll continue to make plays for us."​

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