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Browns expect to ride the “hot hand” at running back this season

Josh Alper

The Browns made a variety of moves at running back this offseason.

They signed Carlos Hyde as a free agent and drafted Nick Chubb in the second round before signing Duke Johnson to a three-year contract extension this month, which answered the question of their plans for Johnson beyond the end of his rookie deal. The biggest question facing them now is how they will divide the work in the backfield during the season.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said earlier this month that it has “yet to be determined” and running backs coach Freddie Kitchens suggested that the answer may be a shifting one. Kitchens said the team will ride the “hot hand” because it doesn’t make much sense to fiddle with something that’s working.

“Ultimately, all three of those guys can run our running game,” Kitchens said, via the team’s website. “Duke can do a few more things in the passing game. Ultimately, we feel like that is a position of strength. Coach [Bill] Parcells taught me a long time ago, do not turn a position of strength into a weakness. You would like to keep it a strength, and we are fortunate that is where we are.”

Johnson’s role in the passing game may mean that the Browns are picking between Hyde or Chubb on early downs. Hyde’s experience may get him the first crack at showing he can do the job, but Kitchens suggests he’ll need to make the most of it to keep Chubb from making his bid for a big role right out of the gate.