Saunders: Duke to be Browns' 'queen on chess board'

When the Browns staged their intrasquad scrimmage last Friday in Cleveland, Duke Johnson was seen manning a role he plans to play plenty of this season: The slot.

Receivers coach Al Saunders likes what he sees so far from the team's versatile third-year running back.

"He catches the ball as well as any receiver that we have," Saunders said, per The Plain Dealer. "He has a gifted talent as a pass-catcher."

Saunders went on to compare Johnson's skill set to Hall of Famer he coached up close in St. Louis at the turn of the century.

"I've been fortunate in my career to have guys like Duke Johnson that have not only great running skills, but also skills as a receiver and skills as a player-in-space," Saunders said. "I saw the other night [at the Hall of Fame festivities] a guy that comes to mind by the name of Marshall Faulk ... running backs who had multiple skills and were able to catch the football."

Said Saunders: "They're like the queen on the chess board. They can move to every spot. They can do everything and they give you an advantage when it comes to personnel matchups."

Johnson has come nowhere close to mimicking Faulk's epic heroics in Cleveland. Still, his 114 catches over the past two seasons are third among NFL runners and the former Miami star has produced his share of flashy plays.

The Browns under Hue Jackson plan to pound the ball with Isaiah Crowell ruling the roost on early downs. Expect to see Johnson double up in the backfield for carries, while also shifting out wide and into the slot to create matchup headaches.

The positive for Cleveland is a rebuilt line that potentially could be one of the AFC's best. The concern is zero proof that a franchise quarterback rests on the roster, an ugly dynamic that has held Johnson and the rest of this team's skill-position players behind for years.

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