Browns, Featured

The people versus Hue: gross negligence against Duke Johnson

Another Sunday has come and gone, and the results in the win/loss column have yet to change. The ups and down of the Browns offense is 2017 is centered on a lack of play-makers at the skill position to break off the big gains. It’s no secret the Browns are short on talent at the wide receiver position; as a position group combined they have 1,070 total receiving yards.1 Mix that with the struggles of Isaiah Crowell and you have the play-making problem in which the Browns are currently entrenched.

The problem here is the fact that the Browns do have a lethal play-maker. A guy who would instantly make the team he resides on much better. A guy who leads the team with 46 receptions as a running back, 20 more than the next name on the roster. Duke Johnson is clearly the Browns best all-around offensive talent, and the gross negligence they displayed on Sunday was downright painful. WFNY’s Joe Gilbert pointed it out early in the season and it remains true today.

The Browns use three principle schemes to get their run game going: inside zone, outside zone, and power. All three are built to be simple for the lineman and get the backs making one cut and and getting downhill. Here’s a breakdown of how Jacksonville fares against each and a look at what the Browns tried to do courtesy of Pro Football Focus’ John Kosko.

Hue Jackson went to the outside zone five times – the scheme Jacksonville struggles covering most. He only let Duke run the scheme twice for ten yards and the Browns totaled just 50 rushing yards on the day in general. Which bring us to the point at hand. Duke Johnson touched the ball a mere six times in total and the Browns limped to seven total points–six of which Duke was responsible for–and 184 total yards. Something is off here. Just take a look at all six plays and the positive results each gave the Browns.

Touch No. 1

Early in the game after a Browns interception they came back out and tried Duke on an outside zone scheme and it net them seven yards. One of their best rushing plays of the day.

Touch No. 2

Browns best concept of the day going five vertical route concept in the borderline Red Zone to put pressure on the single high safety. Duke worked up the numbers and made a great catch and finish into the end zone for a 27 yard touchdown reception.

Touch No. 3

A meaningless check down here on third and 17 that only nets a few yards. This one never had much of a chance.

Touch No. 4

Third and two late in the fourth quarter and Duke turns this loop outside zone into a first down after a dynamic spin move and finish. This easily could have been a loss of yards and punt.

Touch No. 5

Late in the fourth quarter Duke catches an angle route for seven yards on third and five to keep the Browns late drive moving. He is borderline unguardable if he finds his way into a one on one with a linebacker.

Touch No. 6

Duke’s final touch came on a flat route that he broke down the sideline in the Browns final drive. He turned this short route into 21 yards with a deadly stop and start move.

That is it. The Browns targeted Johnson two other times that didn’t lead to touches, but neither would have resulted in much of a gain after poor DeShone Kizer throws. Those plays above are the only touches Duke Johnson was able to muster for the Browns offense in a game where the struggled so mightily. Johnson played on 27 total snaps and was able to account for 66 of the Browns 184 total yards and their only touchdown. It fails to make logical sense. The Browns recognize that Duke has a sore  shoulder, but he continues to claim he is at or near 100 percent.

WFNY’s Jacob Rosen noted today that Duke Johnson has averaged 10.2 touches per game this year. His career high is 17 total touches in a game. This arbitrary limit illustrates the major problem at hand. While Duke is perhaps not a feature back who can carry an entire offensive rushing workload, it is a shame to only put the ball in your best play-maker’s hands only 10.2 times per game. Johnson should easily be in the 20 touches per game area, and if the Browns want to find any consistent success, they can’t keep ignoring him.

  1. Yes, Antonio Brown is still out-pacing the entire Browns receiving corps by himself. []