Duke Johnson

Dolphins Notes: Running Backs, Offensive Line, Tagovailoa

The Dolphins were busy reworking their running backs depth chart during the offseason. After signing the likes of Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert, the team didn’t have much room for another veteran. Speaking to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, running back Duke Johnson said Miami never offered him a contract in free agency.

The veteran had a productive five-game stint with the Dolphins in 2021. After making a name for himself in the passing game, Johnson averaged 66 rushing yards per game…a leap from his 23.6-yard career mark. The 28-year-old RB ultimately finished the campaign with 371 yards from scrimmage and three scores on 75 touches. The organization initially expressed interest in re-signing Johnson following the season, but Mike McDaniel’s hiring ultimately changed the team’s plans.

“They just wanted to go in a different direction,” Johnson said. “I figured McDaniel wanted his guys; Raheem Mostert is one of his guys. I know the nature of the business. No hard feelings.”

Johnson ended up landing a one-year deal with the Bills in March.

More notes out of Miami…

  • When the Dolphins signed Connor Williams this offseason, it was expected that the lineman would slide in at left guard. However, ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques writes that Williams is now the front runner to start at center. The 25-year-old trained at the position throughout the offseason to help improve his versatility, and it seems like it worked. Incumbent starter Michael Deiter is still in the picture, but Louis-Jacques opines that the starting center gig is Williams’ to lose.
  • ESPN’s Todd McShay recently opined that 2022 is a prove-it year for Tua Tagovailoa, and if the QB fails, the Dolphins are in a good position to pursue one of next year’s top QB prospects. Jackson quickly dismisses that notion, however. In the hypothetical where Tagovailoa does fail and the Dolphins decide to pivot next offseason, their various assets may not be enough to pull off a trade. While the Dolphins have an extra first-round pick thanks to a trade with San Francisco, Jackson writes that few teams would be interested in bailing on a franchise quarterback for a platter of middling firsts…especially when the majority of the teams that could be in contention for a top pick would all have their own QB issues.
  • When asked which AFC team had the best offseason, PFR readers ranked the Dolphins third. Besides their blockbuster acquisition of wideout Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins also brought in offensive tackle Terron Armstead, extended cornerback Xavien Howard, and re-signed defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. The Broncos finished first in the poll, with the Raiders finishing second.

Bills, RB Duke Johnson Agree To Deal

The Bills could not pry J.D. McKissic from Washington, though the sides were believed to have an agreement. Buffalo will instead pivot to an AFC veteran back.

Duke Johnson is signing a one-year deal with the Bills, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The veteran pass-catching back will come over from the Dolphins, who have added multiple starter-caliber backs since free agency opened.

Formerly with the Browns and Texans, Johnson spent much of the 2021 season off the radar. But he resurfaced with the Dolphins down the stretch. Johnson ripped off two 100-yard rushing performances with Miami, helping the team to wins over the Jets and Patriots. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry with the Dolphins, who added him via a practice squad agreement during the season. With Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds now on the Mike McDaniel-led team, Johnson will head north.

Buffalo still rosters Devin Singletary and Zack Moss on their respective rookie contracts, but the team was clearly eyeing backs with aerial skillsets this offseason. Brandon Beane expressed frustration McKissic’s agreement fell through. McKissic is still with Washington. In the 28-year-old Johnson, the Bills have a player who has topped 400 receiving yards in five of his six seasons. With the Browns, Johnson exceeded 500 receiving yards three times.

Dolphins To Promote Duke Johnson

He clearly earned it. The Dolphins are set to promote running back Duke Johnson to the active roster (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).

Johnson, 28, spent much of the year on the workout circuit. After auditions for the 49ers, Panthers, and Saints didn’t result in deals, he settled for a practice squad contract with the Dolphins in October. Yesterday, in his first start of 2021, Johnson torched the Jets for 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns off of 22 carries. The Dolphins — against some creative play calling from the Jets — won 31-24, advancing to 7-7 on the year.

Johnson was the focal point of the Dolphins’ offense, even though Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were cleared in time to play. Elevated in place of Phillip Lindsay, who was still held out due to COVID-19 protocols, the veteran kept the chains moving throughout the afternoon.

Historically, Johnson has been known for his pass-catching ability, as shown by his 400+ receiving yards in each of his first five seasons. But, on Sunday, he did most of the damage with his feet, save for a 20-yard grab in the third quarter. He might just be the bell cow moving forward as the Dolphins scrap for a playoff berth. The AFC East may be out of reach, but the ‘Fins still have a 10% chance at capturing a Wild Card spot, per Five Thirty Eight.

Minor NFL Transactions:  12/20/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

  • Promoted: OL Jacob Capra

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

Washington Football Team

  • Promoted: OT Sam Cosmi

Dolphins Worked Out RB Lamar Miller

The Dolphins considered a reunion with one of their former players today. Per Aaron Wilson (on Twitter), the team worked out running back Lamar Miller today. The team also took a look at RBs Benny LeMay, Jordan Scarlett, and Dexter Williams, who ultimately signed with the Dolphins practice squad. Miami also promoted RB Duke Johnson to the active roster and released wideout Travis Fulgham from the practice squad.

Miller was a second-round pick by the Dolphins back in 2012, and he ended up spending the first four seasons of his career in Miami. Miller ultimately saw time in 61 games (48 starts) during his time with the Dolphins, including a career year in 2014 when he collected 1,374 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. The 30-year-old has bounced around the NFL recently, including a stint on the Saints practice squad earlier this season.

Instead of adding Miller to their depth chart, the Dolphins decided to pivot to Williams. Williams was a sixth-round pick by the Packers back in 2019, and he ended up spending two seasons in Green Bay, collecting 19 yards from scrimmage in seven games. The 24-year-old has spent much of the 2021 campaign on the Giants and Browns practice squads.

Miami’s running backs depth chart is shaky heading into Week 15. Myles Gaskin, Phillip Lindsay, and Salvon Ahmed are all on the reserve/COVID-19 list, leading to Johnson’s promotion. Williams will join a taxi squad that already includes RB Gerrid Doaks. The team also has Patrick Laird and Malcolm Brown on the IR, and there’s a chance Brown could return before the end of the season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/20/21

We’ll keep track of today’s stream of minor moves right here:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

  • Promoted: CB Gavin Heslop

Tennessee Titans

Dolphins Add Duke Johnson To Practice Squad

The Dolphins are signing running back Duke Johnson to the practice squad (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Johnson has yet to play in 2021 and this marks his first deal since the start of the season.

Johnson, 28, auditioned for the 49ers, Panthers, and Saints this fall but did not sign with any of those clubs. The Saints workout went down about three weeks ago when he showed his stuff alongside Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, and Ryquell Armstead.

Johnson has excelled as a passing-down back, eclipsing 400 receiving yards in each of his first five NFL seasons. He was once a focal point of the Browns offense and even signed an extension in 2018, but the addition of Kareem Hunt pushed him down the pecking order. He went on to enjoy a productive 2019 with the Texans, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and totaling 820 scrimmage yards. Last year, however, he was limited to just eleven games, 235 rushing yards, and 28 catches for 249 yards.

After losing Malcolm Brown to a quad injury, the Dolphins’ RB group currently consists of Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed. Johnson will serve as extra insurance until Brown is able to return.

Saints Sign RB Devine Ozigbo Off Jaguars’ Practice Squad

The Saints will be down a running back for the new few weeks, so the team is bringing in reinforcement. New Orleans has signed running back Devine Ozigbo off the Jaguars’ practice squad, reports Aaron Wilson (via Twitter).

This is a bit of a homecoming for Ozigbo, as the Nebraska product joined the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He eventually moved on to Jacksonville, and he spent the next two-plus seasons with the Jaguars organization. He ultimately saw time in 18 games for the team, collecting 93 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches. The 25-year-old has also spent a significant amount of time on special teams.

The Saints needed some running back depth following news that Tony Jones Jr. would miss the next three to four weeks (per ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). The 23-year-old has seen time in all four games this season, collecting 87 yards from scrimmage on 23 carries. Other than Ozigbo and starter Alvin Kamara, the team’s only other healthy RB is Dwayne Washington (plus versatile wideout Ty Montgomery).

New Orleans might not be done adding to the position. Schefter reports that the team also auditioned a number of veteran RBs today, including Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, and Ryquell Armstead.

Panthers Work Out RB Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson is wrapping a two-visit work week. The former Browns and Texans passing-down back worked out for the Panthers on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Johnson visited the 49ers on Monday.

While widespread uncertainty has gripped San Francisco’s backfield, the 49ers went in another direction. Carolina, however, will be without Christian McCaffrey for weeks due to the hamstring injury the All-Pro suffered Thursday night. Johnson could seemingly have an opportunity for a 3-0 team that now lacks a proven receiving back.

The Panthers have rookie Chuba Hubbard and former Broncos contributor Royce Freeman. The former did catch 20-plus passes in his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, but the Canadian back did drop a pass at the goal line Thursday. Freeman did not factor into the Broncos’ passing game much during his three Denver seasons.

Johnson has excelled in this role, eclipsing 400 receiving yards in his first five NFL seasons. The Jaguars cut the former third-round pick from their practice squad last week, and while the veteran resided in free agency for months after his February Texans release, multiple teams have kicked the tires on him recently.

The 28-year-old back signed a Browns extension in 2018 but saw the team’s subsequent Kareem Hunt addition lead him out of Cleveland. Johnson missed five games last season but was productive for the Texans in 2019, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and totaling 820 scrimmage yards.

Additionally, Carolina auditioned running backs Ito Smith, Dontrell Hilliard and B.J. Emmons, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Hilliard, also primarily a passing-game option, joined Johnson on the 2018 Browns. Hilliard also played in two games for the Texans last season. Three teams — the Falcons, Cardinals and Vikings — cut Smith this offseason. Smith played three seasons with the Falcons, primarily functioning as a backup.

49ers Meet With Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller

The 49ers’ running back search is underway. This week, the team will meet with T.J. Yeldon, Duke Johnson, and Lamar Miller in the wake of Raheem Mostert‘s season-ending injury. (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). 

[RELATED: Raheem Mostert Done For Year]

Johnson caught on with the Jaguars earlier this month but was released after just nine days on the taxi squad. Johnson, 27, did not see the field during his lone week in Jacksonville, residing as an insurance option behind the likes of James Robinson, Carlos Hyde and Dare Ogunbowale. A former third-round pick, Johnson began his career with five straight seasons of 400-plus receiving yards. He topped out at 693 for the 2017 Browns, despite having started just 12 games in that span.

Miller has been on the market ever since he was released by Washington in August. The 2018 Pro Bowler, who has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons on his resume, has not been the same since his a torn ACL wiped out his 2019.

Yeldon, 26 in October, spent the offseason with the Bills. After a 182-carry rookie campaign, the former second-rounder ended his Jaguars stay as the team’s third-string running back behind Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde. Still, Yeldon managed a respectable 4.0 yards per carry last season and has hit the 5.0 ypc mark in the past.