Atkinson has replaced Duke Johnson as Cleveland's kick returner, according to the team's official website. This move comes as a bit of a surprise, as Duke Johnson never even returned a kick during Sunday's loss to the Eagles, thanks to six touchbacks by Caleb Sturgis. The Browns may, however, want a more aggressive returner who isn't afraid of taking the ball out of the end zone, and Atkinson might just be the guy to do that.
Atkinson may be tasked with returning kicks, ESPN.com reports. With the release of kickoff return candidates Taylor Gabriel, Justin Gilbert and Raheem Mostert, the Browns are in need of a return man and that just may be Atkinson. The 23-year-old ran back seven kicks for 134 yards in 2014 as a Raider and had an 81-yard return for a touchdown in the preseason.
The Browns claimed Atkinson off waivers Sunday, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The 23-year-old appeared in five games for the Raiders during the 2014 season.
Atkinson carried the ball three times for three total yards to go along with one reception for 15 yards during Thursday's preseason loss to the Packers. After a near 100-yard rushing performance on just five carries in the team's preseason opener last week, Atkinson's production declined tremendously Thursday as he got four total touches out of the backfield. Rookie running back DeAndre Washington is essentially a lock to make the roster at this point, while Atkinson may have the edge over the injured Jalen Richard (knee) for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart.
Atkinson led Oakland with 97 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on just five carries in Friday's preseason win over the Cardinals. Atkinson did nearly all of his damage on just two runs, as he broke outside for a 53-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter and followed up with a 35-yard score in the fourth. Latavius Murray is the unquestioned starter, and Atkinson mainly faces competition for the top backup job from rookie DeAndre Washington, who racked up 74 total yards of his own. With this eye-opening performance, however, Atkinson will likely have the opportunity to showcase his skills a bit more as the preseason moves along.
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