2. Cleveland Browns Browns won’t throw the ball to Nick Chubb, either
Your humble correspondent wanted to post a picture of Nick Chubb catching a pass for this article but didn’t do it. You know why? DPD does not have any in their stash of licensed photos, because he catches passes so infrequently. The Browns seem to have played keepaway with Odell Beckham, Jr. Are they doing the same thin with their true superstar, Nick Chubb?
In fact, the Browns targeted Nick Chubb more times in the Freddie Kitchens era (49) than in the Kevin Stefanski era (43), even though Kitchens was in Cleveland only one season. Why is that? This is an incredible statistic.
Chubb had 715 snaps in 2019 (36 catches, 49 targets, catch percentage 73.5%, or one target every 14.6 snaps); 410 snaps in 2020 (16 catches, 18 targets, 88.9 catch percentage; one target every 22.8 snaps) and 482 snaps in 2021 (20 catches, 25 targets, 80.0% catch percentage; one target every 19.3 snaps).
So, why did they let Baker Mayfield get sacked 43 times in 14 games without dumping the ball off to the star running back? The Browns are happy to dump the ball off to Kareem Hunt (22 catches in 27 targets in only eight games; 234 snaps, a target every 8.7 snaps, more than twice as frequent as Chubb.
Similarly, D’Ernest Johnson was targeted 25 times, the same as Chubb, but in only 331 snaps, or 1 target every 13.2 snaps. Johnson had 19 catches, or only one fewer than Chubb.
Even rookie Demetric Felton was targeted more often than Chubb. Felton played only 130 snaps, but was targeted 21 times with 18 catches; one target every 6.2 snaps, which is a crazy high target rate. However, the results are there: 85.7% catch rate is incredible. The Browns need to see about playing him in the slot more often. The Browns can split Landry wide (if they decide to keep him) and anyway they targeted him way too often last season as we learned earlier in this article.
The point is that this business of rarely throwing the ball to Nick Chubb is ridiculous.
The more introverted Chubb was targeted only once every 19.3 snaps, or about one-third the frequency of Jarvis Landry.
Versus Pittsburgh in the playoffs last season, they threw to him four times with four grabs for 69 yards, including a 40-yard TD reception. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Did it make a difference that Alex Van Pelt was calling plays?
This is not to suggest that the Haslam’s should order coach Stefanski to turn over play calling duties to the offensive coordinator. All organizations have to trust the head coach to decide who makes play calls on offense and defense, and if they cannot trust him, they have to fire him.
No organization can have a subordinate have authority over the leader, so let’s forget about that idea. But nevertheless, for some reason the Browns usually do not throw to Nick Chubb, even though it usually works when they do throw to him.
Or is Mayfield jealous of Nick Chubb? You would think that would not be possible at the professional level. But you would think the same thing about Odell Beckham, Jr.
By the way, there is quite a bit of pre-draft buzz about the Browns’ need for a speedy wide receiver to counter the other teams’ ability to load up the box against Nick and the boys. Can we amend that just a bit? The counter for eight in the box is usually not the hero ball bomb down the sidelines, because eight in the box gets the quarterback sacked before he can take a seven-step drop.
Instead, you still want the premier wide receiver, but ideally the Browns are looking for the physical wide receiver who gets open on the quick slant over the middle and catches the jump ball, rather than the sprinter who catches the deep ball down the sideline. The idea is to beat the eight-in-the box defense that gives very little time for the play to develop.
Also, hitting the halfback in the flat is not a bad option, either. The Browns use that to great effect with Kareem Hunt and now D’Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton also. However they are so reluctant to use it with their greatest weapon, for reasons that are not understood. Is it coach Stefanski, offensive coordinator Van Pelt, or quarterback Baker Mayfield who would rather take the sack rather than use Chubb as the safety valve? Maybe it is a combination of all three.
It needs to get fixed. Being top five in the NFL in sacks — on offense — is not the way to get to the Super Bowl.