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Wilbert Montgomery wants defenses searching for rookie Duke Johnson

Wilbert Montgomery wants defenses to have to hunt for rookie running back Duke Johnson.

“It’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’” Montgomery, the Cleveland Browns running backs coach, said Thursday.

Montgomery is a straight shooter, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back who played in a Super Bowl. He talked about the positives and the negatives with the Browns’ talented third-round pick from the University of Miami.

Montgomery compared the Browns’ plans for Johnson to the way the Buffalo Bills used Thurman Thomas, who retired with 12,074 yards rushing and 4,458 receiving. Montgomery isn’t saying Johnson is as good as Thomas, mind you, just that Johnson can be effective out of the backfield the way Thomas was.

“He’s going to be all over the field,” Montgomery said of Johnson.

One could see Johnson in the backfield, in the slot, flanked wide or in motion -- all to try to draw a mismatch that would allow him to take advantage of his quickness.

Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are more between-the-tackles runners. Johnson is quicker, shiftier and can be used outside on misdirection, screens and swing passes -- and there have been many of those thrown during the Browns OTAs.

“He gives you another dimension,” Montgomery said. “He creates one-on-one problems. We hope he can be a little bit like the kid [Giovani] Bernard in Cincinnati. If he can do that for us, that gives us a different perspective on how we approach the field and gives us a chance to move people around and taking advantage of a mismatch.”

The concern with Johnson might be pass protection, but Montgomery said the Browns won’t ask Johnson to do a lot of that.

“That’s going to be a total mismatch,” Montgomery said. “He’s not going to be able to man up.”

Johnson is a 201-pound running back. Blitzing linebackers will be 250 or 260 pounds.

“But the equalizer is he’s getting out of the backfield and running routes,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery also explained the difference in the way the fullback will be used this season in John DeFilippo’s offense as opposed to last season under Kyle Shanahan.

“Last year, we were looking for a thumper,” Montgomery said.

Ray Agnew and Kiero Small filled that role.

“This year we’re looking for more of an H-back type guy, a cross between a fullback and tight end who can move out of the backfield and still get lined up as a tight end as well as get lined up in the backfield,” Montgomery said. “Not be that thumper, but cover up a guy.”

Rookie Malcolm Johnson is the only fullback listed on the roster, but based on Montgomery’s description, tight ends Gary Barnidge, Rob Housler and Jim Dray also could line up as an H-back.