Even after the Browns drafted in former Georgia tailback Nick Chubb with the No. 35 overall pick in the draft, they showed with this extension that they are committed to Johnson playing a vital role in the team's backfield for this upcoming season and beyond. Johnson is coming off a career-best season in 2017, posting 74 receptions, 1,041 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns, and he should continue to operate as the team's number one option in the backfield on passing downs. Johnson, however, will face more competition for touches in the offense this season with the additions of tailback Carlos Hyde and wide receiver Jarvis Landry on top of the return of Josh Gordon.
Given that he caught 13 passes in 34 games after his freshman season, Chubb is a much bigger threat to Hyde than to Johnson. Coming off a 2017 campaign in which he comfortably established new personal bests for scrimmage yards (1,041), receptions (74) and touchdowns (seven), Johnson is locked in as Cleveland's top backfield option for passing downs. He faces an uphill battle to match last year's volume in an offense that now includes Hyde, Chubb, Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, but the 2015 third-round pick nonetheless figures to retain a significant role. Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Johnson reportedly was discussing an extension with the Browns back in mid-March, though he still doesn't have a new deal.
Impressive in a part-time role his first two seasons, the 2015 third-round pick enjoyed a mini-breakout in 2017 despite essentially filling the same role. He'll be part of an improved offense featuring Tyrod Taylor this upcoming season, though it could be tough to duplicate last year's 74 catches and 93 targets with Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry on the roster. There's also some chance the Browns use one of their many early draft picks on a running back, though the desire to sign Johnson to an extension suggests that's no sure thing. We'll have a better read on Johnson's future once the draft is complete.
Johnson carried six times for 20 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Steelers. He also caught all six of his targets for 75 yards and lost a fumble in the 28-24 loss.
Johnson managed just 3.3 yards per carry, but he chipped in his usual reliable contribution as a pass catcher as he still finished with his second-highest scrimmage yards total of the season. The third-year back never really threatened Isaiah Crowell's grasp on early-down work, but his impressive 684 receiving yards on 74 catches allowed him to eclipse 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career. Johnson has one year remaining on his rookie contract and seems secure in his role as a receiving threat out of the backfield regardless of the changes the Browns offense could undergo in the offseason.
Johnson (shoulder) doesn't have an injury designation for Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
Like fellow running back Isaiah Crowell (shoulder/ribs), Johnson has yet to miss a game in his career. While he'll yield most of the carries to Crowell, per usual, this weekend, Johnson will remain active as a pass catcher due to his standing as the fourth-ranked RB in terms of receptions this season.
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