Johnson, Rainey adding depth at running back
CLEVELAND – The newest of the Browns running backs participated in their first practice Monday to add depth at an area that was in need of help.
The Browns were awarded Dennis Johnson from the Texans and Bobby Rainey from the Ravens off waivers Sunday. They were sorely needed after Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty were placed on injured reserve and Brandon Jackson was waived.
Chris Ogbonnaya, who’s listed as a fullback, could be first in line to receive carries when Trent Richardson is given a break. Johnson and Rainey will compete for time as the third back and kick returner.
The Browns had Johnson Bademosi returning kicks in preseason, but he wasn’t impressive. Travis Benjamin, who’s been electric returning punts, could get the call, but with just four receivers currently on the active roster, it would be risky to ask Benjamin to return kicks.
Johnson, who played at Arkansas, might be the best option Sunday when the Dolphins are at First Energy Stadium. He’s the SEC’s career leader in kick return yardage (2,784), averaging 23.4 yards per return.
Johnson doesn’t expect to have any problems fitting in to the return game.
“It doesn’t take long. You just catch the ball and go,” Johnson said. “You just need to know which way the return will be.”
LOOKING AHEAD: Rainey spent part of last season on the Ravens’ practice squad. He was activated for three games and then placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
If Rainey had cleared waivers he probably would have gone on the Ravens’ practice squad again.
“I was very disappointed when I found out I was released because I did what they asked me to do,” Rainey said. “I have no regrets because I felt like I did everything I needed to do and gave it my all.”
SHORT GUYS: Rainey and Johnson are listed at 5-feet-8 and 5-7, respectively. With Trent Richardson listed at 5-9, the Browns must have one of the shortest groups of running backs in the NFL.
With receiver Josh Gordon not on the active roster the first two weeks because of a suspension, the receivers, running backs and defensive backs collectively are an average of five to 10.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Rookie tight end Keavon Milton, who was awarded to the Browns off waivers from the Saints, is a first cousin to defensive back Josh Aubrey, who made the roster as a rookie free agent.
Milton (6-4, 293) will be used primarily for his blocking skills. Starter Jordan Cameron and backup Gary Barnidge are better receivers than blockers.
“I’m an extra lineman out there,” Milton said. “I like that role.”
INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Chris Owens (foot), receiver Davone Bess (knee tendinitis) and defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms) returned to practice Monday after missing time with minor injuries. All three said during their idle time that they would be ready for the opener.
MAKING STRIDES: Rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo took another step in his return from a bruised lung. Mingo participated in individual drills but was limited in team drills. The official injury report won’t be released until Wednesday afternoon.