Monday, June 27, 2022

Falcons encouraged to trade for Browns RB

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There’s no shortage of potential lead running backs for the Atlanta Falcons heading into the 2022 NFL season. However, the rotation also appears to be more about quantity than quality.

General Manager Terry Fontenot reshuffled the deck, signing Damien Williams in free agency and drawing Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round. However, there should still be room for another strong runner, a talented back for the Cleveland Browns, who will be smothered by the presence of two pro bowlers in front of him.

This three-year-old pro could go from sideline to main workhorse for the Falcons and head coach Arthur Smith, according to an NFL writer. The likely increase in workload makes a trade worth exploring.

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D’Ernest Johnson is the player Smith needs as his “bell cow back,” according to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox. He believes Johnson’s best chance to shine will come from a Browns rotation led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Knox believes the Falcons are giving Johnson their best opportunity given the question marks over their own options: “Cordarrelle Patterson is a good complementary runner-receiver, but he’s not an all-down ball carrier. Atlanta’s other defensemen include Damien Williams — who retired from the 2020 season and only played 40 times with the Chicago Bears in 2021 — and fifth-round rookie pick Tyler Allgeier.”

As Knox points out, none of the defensemen currently on the list seem capable of being what Derrick Henry was to Smith when he was offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. Johnson could be different, having averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season. He rushed for 534 yards and three touchdowns on just 100 attempts after entering the lineup to cover for injuries to Chubb and Hunt.

Johnson’s breakout moment came in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos, per Pro Soccer Network:

While Johnson proved he could hammer between tackles, his best attribute was a flair for gaining yards in chunks. The 5’10, 208-pounder showed real flair for the big game, averaging a staggering 14.5 yards on four carries against the Green Bay Packers in Week 16.

Johnson’s big day included this quick third down conversion highlighted by PFF CLE Browns:

The combination of brute force, dodgeability and acceleration is what every trainer craves from a leadback. Johnson proved he has those qualities, ending last season in style by rushing for 123 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Performances like this encouraged the Browns to get Johnson back on one one year contractbut the 26-year-old is still nothing more than a support act for Chubb and Hunt.

Johnson’s situation could change if the Browns decide to move away from Hunt. The latter wants to stay in Cleveland “long-term,” per Mary Kay Cabot of The plain dealer:

If Hunt gets his wish, the Browns may not have room for all three of their gifted running backs. Things are different in Atlanta, where the Falcons could make room for a true No. 1 rusher.

Patterson filled that role admirably last season, rushing for 610 yards and six touchdowns. Smith needed Patterson to take the reins because Mike Davis was a disappointment.

Things are different now that Davis is a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Converted wide receiver Patterson could also be needed to play his former post-Calvin Ridley position more often suspension for betting violations and Russell Gage joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free hands.

Fontenot drafted Drake London in eighth overall, trading for Bryan Edwards, but the wide space would look stronger if Patterson lined up more often this year. With that, Williams and Allgeier would fight for the lion’s share of the carries.

Williams was never the main runner for the Kansas City Chiefs or the Chicago Bears. He’s more of a complementary all-rounder.

Allgeier was a bleeding workhorse for BYU, rushing 276 times for 1,601 yards in his senior season with the Cougars. His Numbers are impressivebut Allgeier still faces an uphill battle to go from late-round draft pick to backfield captain as a rookie.

Trading a third-rounder next year to put Johnson on the rotation now would give the Falcons the legitimate 20-25 carryback Smith needs to get his offense working.

Things are different now that Davis is a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Converted wide receiver Patterson could also be needed to play his former post-Calvin Ridley position more often suspension for betting violations and Russell Gage joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free hands.



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