Browns: Nick Chubb will become a receiving threat in 2022

Jul 29, 2021; Berea, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) catches a pass during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2021; Berea, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) catches a pass during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns may find new ways to get Nick Chubb the ball in 2022, and people are going to be surprised at how good he is as a receiver. 

Barring injury, Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb will at least double and possibly even triple his pass reception output in 2022 compared to the past two years with Baker Mayfield. Write it down.

If you were wondering how to reconcile the desire of star quarterback Deshaun Watson to put the ball up 40 times a game, while their best player is Chubb, the answer is rather simple. They will throw him the ball more and run him (a little) less in 2022.

Dawg Pound, before you scream, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?” if you look at the numbers you will realize that it is in fact broken. Mayfield had developed an aversion to throwing to Chubb. You can see that by examining his numbers in 2019, the year he should have won the NFL rushing yardage title, except Freddie Kitchens wouldn’t let him go for it in a meaningless loss to the Bengals.

Nevertheless, under Kitchens, Chubb was targeted 49 times and caught 36 balls. In the past two years, in the two-tight-end offense, which is very friendly to screen passes, Mayfield targeted him only 18 times in 2020 and 25 times in 2021, or a total of 43 times.

That’s a ridiculous stat. Let that sink in. Chubb was targeted fewer times in the past two seasons combined than he was targeted in 2019 alone.

Yet, Chubb has improved his receiving stats significantly even as he has been used less. Over the past two seasons, Chubb has averaged 7.53 yards per target versus 5.67 yards per target in 2019. Chubb’s catch percentage over the past two seasons was 83.7 percent, up from 73.5 percent in 2019.

Chubb can be an enormous threat out of the backfield because he actually’s the best receiver of the Browns trio of running backs. If there is anyone out there who thinks that Chubb’s low receiving numbers are due to an inability to make receptions, watch this video.

Chubb’s catch percentage has trended upwards since his rookie season: 66.9, 73.5, 88.9, and 80.0 percent. So, even when Mayfield was having a bad year, he was still completing 80 percent of his passes to Chubb. You would think he would throw to him more often. But no, he was too busy getting sacked, with a sack percentage of 9.3 (only Justin Fields and Zach Wilson got sacked more frequently than Mayfield last season).

Not only that, but he’s part of a three-headed monster with former Pro Bowler Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson wanting to run over people as well. Hunt will be all of 27 this season, so he’s not exactly an old man, and Johnson is 26 years old and still owns a career-rushing average of 5.26 yards per carry. Derrick Henry’s career average is 4.85 yards per carry, so Johnson must be the best third-string back in the NFL.

Related Story. Will Chubb, Hunt each break 1000 yards?. light

The problems between Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. were legendary. OBJ definitely contributed by dropping passes at crucial times, but it got to the point where Mayfield gave up on him and started ignoring Beckham in crucial situations.

The drought in passes from Mayfield to Chubb was much less public, but just as damaging to the team. Chubb had developed into a superb receiver, and Mayfield was ignoring him. Why?

We cannot completely rule out the idea that the coaching staff thought it was a good idea for Mayfield to take 43 sacks in 14 games and eschew the dump pass to Chubb, but it really did seem that Mayfield was averse to throwing the ball to Chubb.

We can also point out that Hunt and Johnson combined for 52 targets and 41 receptions last season, so it’s not that the Browns’ offense was unfriendly to running backs catching balls out of the backfield. It was just Chubb that Mayfield had a problem with.

Chubb, after all, was Mayfield’s greatest rival. This writer has said many times that this is Nick Chubb’s team rather than Mayfield’s and that the Browns have always been about running the ball, since the time of Jim Brown and Marion Motley.

No one can read Mayfield’s mind to know whether there was a mental block there or some kind of feud, but the numbers show that Mayfield sent too many passes to unproductive receivers last season. Whatever the issue was, guessing here is Mayfield probably would have eventually worked it out (sacks have a way of knocking sense into even thick noggins), but we will never know. A new start in Carolina is probably even more helpful.

Interestingly, Watson’s Texans had acquired both Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson in 2019, who shared the Browns backfield with Chubb in 2018. The Texans and Browns are always exchanging players, it seems like.

Anyway, those two players combined for 1,480 rushing yards, and they also added 78 receptions for 452 yards. If Watson can hit those two for 78 receptions, he will probably hit the Browns trio 100 times. There’s no way that Watson is going to buy into whatever nonsense afflicted Mayfield and made him so reluctant to throw footballs to Chubb. Whether it was insanity on the part of the coaching staff or Mayfield doesn’t matter. The foolishness ends now.

Jerome Ford and Demetric Felton may help out if there is an emergency, although this fan believes Felton will spend most of his time in the slot once the bell rings. In any case, Browns running backs are going to catch the ball and make seven yards per target versus five yards per carry. If it is Jacoby Brissett instead of Watson, he may not be quite as sharp, but it will not affect his reliance on the running backs and may even increase it. Do the math, seven is more than five.

The main concern with Chubb is that he has had a tendency to miss a few games. That’s the trouble with these high-end sports cars. You have to take them in for maintenance. But okay, we’re not trading it in for a sedan, okay?

So how will the Browns satisfy the quarterback’s desire to throw the ball 40 times a game, while at the same recognizing that three of their best weapons are running backs? Elementary, my dear Watson! The Browns are going to throw to their running backs and especially their very best, Nick Chubb, who has been misused for two years. Last year’s 25 targets was a joke.

This season Chubb — barring injury — surely will break his personal record of 36 catches and smash his record of 334 yards.

light. Related Story. 4 scapegoats if things go wrong in 2022