Duke Johnson has played in just one game this season. He’s carried the ball four times. His longest carry has gone for 6 yards.
And he might be vital to the Miami Dolphins’ hopes this weekend.
With the team’s two leading rushers on the NFL’s COVID-19 reserve list — and therefore very questionable to be ready for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets — the Dolphins had no choice but to promote Johnson from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Unless Myles Gaskin or Salvon Ahmed can return, it looks as if Johnson may end up as a primary ball-carrier for the first time this season.
“I kind of go by my day to day like I’m playing every week,” Johnson said. “It’s a routine that I have whether I’m on the practice squad or not. Kind of the same routine so when you do get called up, you don’t change anything. You don’t try anything different that will throw you off. Do everything the same.”
Johnson’s only other appearance this season was against the Jets, his four carries coming down the stretch to help Miami finish off a 24-17 win on Nov. 21. The Dolphins (6-7) have won five consecutive games now, but returned from the bye week to learn that Gaskin, Ahmed and Phillip Lindsay — the three running backs on the 53-man roster last week — all had to enter the NFL’s virus protocols.
Malcolm Brown, who hasn’t played since Week 7 because of a quad injury, practiced Wednesday and may be ready to go this weekend as well. Brown has 125 yards on 24 carries this season.
“Duke played in the one game against the Jets,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “He’s done a good job in practice over the last — I don’t know exactly how many weeks it’s been, but let’s call it six or seven weeks. He’s a professional. He’s had a lot of production in this league. He’s preparing and he always prepares as if he’s going to play. If he gets an opportunity, hopefully he’s put himself in position to take advantage of it.”
If that opportunity comes, Johnson will get a chance to play for the Dolphins at home for the first time. He’s a Miami native, played his college ball at Hard Rock Stadium for the Miami Hurricanes and grew up a Dolphins fan.
“It really won’t hit me until the game,” Johnson said. “Right now, I’m just taking it all in, just enjoying the moment.”
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