BEREA — Duke Johnson totaled 1,041 yards from scrimmage last year and was the team’s most reliable playmaker.
He doesn’t think he’s hit his stride yet in the NFL.
“I’m still trying to find that groove, but last year was definitely a good start,” the fourth-year running back said Tuesday at minicamp. “Trying to figure out what I want to be in this league and what kind of player and, moving forward, last year is just something I can build on.”
Johnson signed a three-year, $15.6 million contract extension last week that includes $7.7 million guaranteed. He’s signed through 2021.
“That was great, having who I think is one of the best playmakers on our team back in the fold for years to come,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Duke has done some great things for our offensive football team. We expect him to do even more this year.”
Johnson rushed for 348 yards and four touchdowns last year and led the team with 74 passes for 693 yards, adding three touchdowns. Jackson expects Johnson to have a similar role in new coordinator Todd Haley’s offense.
“Duke is just a playmaker,” Jackson said. “He can run with the ball. He has caught it as well as anybody. He gives you that versatility to where you can put Duke in at a lot of places.
“I think he relishes that opportunity to be all over the field and create mismatches and all of those things. I think Todd will come up with a great plan for him.”
Johnson said he likes Haley’s system, which requires him to learn multiple positions and adjustments to play calls.
“It’s a lot on my plate, but I embrace it,” he said. “I’m ready for the challenge and I’m ready to come back during training camp and really show what I can do.”
Cornerback Howard Wilson was dealt another devastating blow at the start of his career.
He had surgery Tuesday morning to repair a torn left patellar tendon and is expected to miss the season.
Wilson, a fourth-round pick out of Houston in 2017, missed his rookie season after breaking his left patella (kneecap) in rookie minicamp and having surgery.
“Can’t hold can’t a Dog out for long ima come back strong believe that!!” Wilson tweeted.
He hadn’t practiced in the organized team activities, and general manager John Dorsey loaded up on cornerbacks in the offseason, reducing the need for Wilson.
The team also announced rookie third-round defensive end Chad Thomas and veteran punter Britton Colquitt will miss minicamp after surgeries. They’re expected to return at some point in training camp.
Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 278-pounder out of Miami, had sports hernia surgery. He sat out OTAs last week.
Colquitt, a nine-year veteran, had surgery on his right (kicking) knee. He had a career-high 47.6-yard gross average last year with a 40.6 net, which set a Browns record for the second straight year.
The Browns claimed punter Justin Vogel off waivers from the Packers last month. As a rookie last year, he had a 44.4 gross and 41.6 net.
Linebackers Jamie Collins and Mychal Kendricks and rookie fourth-round receiver Antonio Callaway didn’t practice and are expected to miss the final two days of minicamp. Jackson said all three should be ready for the start of training camp in July with no issues.
Collins had surgery last season to repair a torn medial collateral ligament, Kendricks had minor ankle surgery in March and Callaway has a groin injury. Kendricks signed last week as a free agent.
** Fullback Danny Vitale was injured after catching a pass. His upper left leg was wrapped in ice and he walked into the facility with a member of the athletic training staff.
** Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (broken foot last year) participated in team drills.
Derrick Kindred, who started 10 games at strong safety last year, won’t give up his starting job without a fight. He worked with the No. 1 defense in some of the rotations Tuesday, ahead of Jabrill Peppers, who moved from free safety and is expected to win the starting job.
“It is a good rotation,” Jackson said. “We have two very capable players. There is competition throughout our football team and guys are going to have to earn what they get once we get to training camp.
“But it is a good problem to have. Jabrill, I think, is going to have a sensational season. I really do. He is working hard. He has been very vocal back there. But Derrick Kindred is not going to just give it away, so it is going to be fun to see.”
STILL A NO-SHOW
Veteran offensive lineman Donald Stephenson’s absence from the offseason program continued into the mandatory minicamp. The reason hasn’t been revealed.
“That will all come to an end here pretty soon,” Jackson said. “Obviously, the guy is not here for minicamp. There are fines involved. There are all of those things that we will deal with.”
Stephenson, 29, signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal as a free agent in March that included $1 million guaranteed. He was expected to compete for the starting left tackle spot and provide experienced depth.
A player can be fined $14,070 for missing the first day of minicamp, $28,150 for the second and $42,215 for the third. If he misses all week, Stephenson is subject to more than $84,000 in fines.
Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 pick, remained with the starting defense and quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick, with the second-team offense.
** Linebacker Christian Kirksey intercepted a Tyrod Taylor pass that was tipped at the line by tackle Trevon Coley.
** No. 33 pick Austin Corbett worked at right tackle and left guard as he continues to get experience across the line.