So, you know how it’s always brought up about how some player should change positions for whatever particular reason the commenter might have? Ryan Shazier moving to safety, Alejandro Villanueva moving to tight end, Vince Williams moving to outside linebacker. These are just some that we’ve heard over the past year about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster.
Of course some position changes do work, but generally they come in early among players who are not established. Villanueva himself was playing defensive end when the Steelers added him to their practice squad a few years ago and stuck him on the offensive line, where he played a bit in college.
The team actually drafted a pair of players this season who made position switches from offense to defense in the middle of their college tenures. T.J. Watt, their first-round outside linebacker, spent half his time at Wisconsin as a tight end lacking playing time. Fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen had a similar problem as a wide receiver at Utah.
For the Cleveland Browns, it looks as though we are seeing an honest-to-goodness legitimate position switch this offseason, and it wouldn’t be the first time for them. They oversaw the conversion of quarterback Terrelle Pryor to wide receiver. Now they’re moving Duke Johnson, a pass-catching running back, to wide receiver.
That is according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, who notes that he is the primary candidate to replace Andrew Hawkins this season as the slot receiver. The loss of Pryor has been talked about quite a bit over the past several months, but very little has been made about the departure of Hawkins as well.
Johnson, a third-round draft pick in 2015, has not been able to garner starter’s snaps at his position behind Isaiah Crowell, who had some success last year despite playing behind a poor offensive line, so he should see increased playing time in his new role.
In her wide receiver preview, Kabot noted that “Johnson has caught passes out of the backfield and while split wide. He’s averaged 57 catches in his first two seasons, and will probably have at least that many this season”.
She points out that he only carried the ball 73 times this year despite nearly averaging five yards per, which was down from a bit over 100 carries in his rookie season. Of course, everybody knew that catching passes would be a key part of his contributions when he came out of college.
While he may end up as the Browns’ starting slot receiver, that doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that he won’t be a running back at all anymore. It does remain to be seen how things might work out in that regard over the course of the preseason. They actually really don’t have much else at the position outside of Crowell, so it would be hard to imagine him completely being taken out of the backfield.