Browns: Duke Johnson at slot WR says bad things about state of receiving corps


Duke Johnson’s emergence at slot WR is great, in that the Browns found a potential impact player, but what’s it say about the state of the receiving corps?

Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson opened some eyes in the first few day of training camp as he took reps at the slot wide receiver position and looked better than any of the wide receivers who lined up in that spot.

On Sunday, Head Coach Hue Jackson was asked if Johnson was spending time in the wide receiver’s meetings, according to Jackson’s response was a bit perplexing.

"“No, he stays with me,” Jackson said. “He is with me all of the time.”"

On Monday, Johnson was asked about his coach’s response and he was quick to corroborate Jackson’s claim.

"“Wherever he goes…Make all our rounds,” Johnson said."

According to, the topic was raised again after practice on Monday with Jackson, but he downplayed his previous statement and said he was kidding. He would go on to talk more about the role Johnson would play in his offense this season,

"“He spends a lot of time in a lot of different rooms is the way I would put it so he can be able to prepare to do what we are asking him to do…He is just doing everything, honestly…He can catch out of the backfield. He runs the ball. We line him up in different places where we can get an advantage with him. He is a weapon for us. We are just trying to use him as much as we can, and we do.”"

On one hand, it is obviously a good sign that Jackson feels he has found an offensive weapon in Johnson. Jackson is extremely creative with his play calling at times and Johnson provides him with a player he can use all over the field. The hope is that given the ball in space, Johnson can be a play-maker, something the Browns offense sorely needs.

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At the same time it doesn’t seem like the greatest sign in the world that the Browns are using him in the slot. There are three second-year wide receivers that the Browns are hoping could at least step up enough to fill that roll in Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton and Ricardo Louis. Not to mention the six UDFA wide receivers invited to camp.

Monitoring Johnson’s transition into the slot is understandable.  He can create mismatches and putting him in a position to catch the ball with some room to work could produce some big-time plays. But at the same time, are the Browns that void of talent at the wide receiver position?

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Very simply, yes.

The depth of the receiving corps is at the very least,  paper thin. I understand the philosophy behind bringing your guys to camp in hopes that one steps up, but if it doesn’t happen you have to be prepared to pick up the phone in a couple weeks when veteran receivers start getting cut all over the league. Hopefully, the analytics team and lawyer filled front office will be able to put aside their pride and call on someone they didn’t draft if it comes to that.

Johnson presents a curious case, though. What other position meetings does he attend?  Wideouts also work with special teams, but Jackson made it sound like he might play guard or something. Jackson backed off of his comments about Johnson being with him everywhere he goes, but the whole interaction came off a bit unusual.

At this point, it’d be more preferable if he was spending all of his time with rookie quarterback, Deshone Kizer, rather than Johnson.

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The concept of using Johnson as a weapon in an offense that is lacking playmakers is sound. However, I can’t help but interpret Jackson’s overzealous attitude towards Johnson’s usage as an indictment on the Browns wide receiver group.