More Nick Chubb is not the answer for the Browns woes
The Browns received a major beat down, this time from the Miami Dolphins, but more carries for Nick Chubb won’t solve their problems.
The Cleveland Browns are a run-first team with a superstar running back, but increasing Nick Chubb’s carries will not necessarily translate to a successful offense. Against Miami, the Chubb family got to realize a family dream by seeing two Chubbs in the same backfield, however one was wearing brown and orange, and the other was wearing teal and white.
Bradley Chubb (who was recently traded to Miami) made a huge difference for his defense, allowing them to start three dudes weighing 300 pounds on the D-Line in Zach Sieler (310 pounds), Christian Wilkins (310 pounds), and Raekwon Davis (335 pounds). In addition to these portly gentlemen, they had two first-round pick pass-rushing linebackers in Chubb and Jaelen Phillips.
The Dolphins were throwing everything but the kitchen sink against the run in the first half, stuffing eight and even nine bodies in the box, and the Browns couldn’t move the ball on the ground. Hence, in the first half, Chubb had six carries for 16 yards, or 2.67 yards/carry. That’s not a formula for success.
In the second half, the Dolphins were mindful of the clock and wanted to avoid giving up the bomb, so they kept only seven in the box. Thus Chubb broke some nice runs and finished with a respectable average, 11 rushes for 63 yards or 5.72 yards per carry. At the local Browns Backers bar, fans were screaming, “Why didn’t they do that in the first half?”
Well, because the Dolphins did not let them. It’s not realistic to run versus eight and nine in the box when they are on a search-and-destroy mission for number 24.
In the military, when you have a weapon system you pound the enemy with it without mercy. Eventually, however, they develop a countermeasure. You then have to make an adjustment and either change your strategy or come up with a counter-countermeasure.
The Browns tried to do that but were unable to do so successfully. They threw four screen passes to Chubb, connecting three times for 18 yards. That was okay, but it wasn’t enough. They should probably try that more often.
In fact, it might not be a bad idea to pair him with another running threat, either Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, or Jerome Ford, to force the defense to make decisions about who is going to cover Chubb if he becomes a receiver. Chubb can be a premier receiving threat and can allow the remaining running back to become a much greater threat on the ground.
Nick Chubb is already overworked, so more carries is not a good idea
As far as using Chubb more, how much do we really want to use him? He’s currently fourth in the NFL with 160 carries, but sixth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage because the Browns rarely use him as a receiver.
Just as an experiment, call up your most savvy Dawg Pound friends and ask them to guess where Chubb ranks in the NFL in terms of TYFS. Probably few will guess he is as low as sixth. Moreover, the Browns are fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game because they do not have much contribution from number two back Kareem Hunt (34.9 yards per game).
Believe it or not, Anthony Schwartz is the number three position player in terms of rushing yards with 20. Potential number three back D’Ernest Johnson has not had a chance at all (17 yards). Jerome Ford has been injured or he might find a role in the offense.
The Browns probably get Chubb enough touches per game, but could have a better run-pass balance with him. He’s the most talented back in the league, but not the most impactful because backs like Saquon Barkley, and Josh Jacobs are allowed to use their receiving skills more than Chubb. Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, Travis Etienne, and Dameon Pierce are within 100 yards of Chubb’s season totals for TYFS, partly because of their receiving opportunities.
Why is that? That’s a Cleveland mystery.
Chubb’s lifetime catch percentage is 75.0. He had 36 receptions switching back and forth with Kareem Hunt in the slot. As mentioned above, perhaps that formation could be dusted off and put back in service. Given that Hunt is underperforming, we might see Jerome Ford, D’Ernest Johnson or forgotten man Demetric Felton in place of Hunt or the second tight end.
For that matter, we have seen Chubb split wide on occasion. Let the defensive back squirm with a guy with breakaway speed who cannot be stopped if he gets behind the coverage.
David Bell has done a good job in the slot. However, the defense never gets confused about who is the running back and who is the slot receiver when Bell and Chubb are both in the game. A coverage breakdown is more likely if there are two running threats on the field and the Browns put one back in motion to force the defense to adjust its coverage. How about letting the other team blow some coverages for a change?
One final thought: not every team has the big bodies that the Dolphins have to throw at the Browns. In particular, the Buffalo Bills have a smaller defense based on mobility and vicious pass rushers from ends Von Miller, Boogie Basham & Co.
They will for sure attempt to do the same thing to the Browns that the Dolphins did, but they will do it with different personnel and the results might be different. In any case, the Browns will have a plan for eight and nine in the box, but it won’t be to just run Nick Chubb every play, as tempting as it sounds.