How the Browns could maximize Nick Chubb in 2023

Browns, Nick Chubb. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Nick Chubb. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nick Chubb chatter has ramped up as of late but for the wrong reasons. Today we discuss how the Cleveland Browns should expand Chubb’s role in their offense to maximize his playmaking potential.

There has been a ton of Nick Chubb discussion on social media since the end of Super Bowl LVII. Most of the chatter is centered around if the Cleveland Browns would be better served to trade Chubb and use the trade assets and money to improve some of their deficiencies. While it is an interesting discussion point, I find the argument for moving Chubb to be unrealistic.

The reality is that the Browns, in the current state of the NFL, would never receive proper compensation for an elite player like Chubb. This is a positional conversation. If Nick Chubb were an elite receiver, the Browns would field plenty of lucrative offers, but being that Chubb is a running back coming off a 300-plus carry season, at best someone might offer a second-rounder paired with some later-round picks.

The bottom line is Chubb carries a $14.85 million cap hit with a $10.86 million dead cap hit this season. His dead cap would lessen to $4 million if he were to be traded after June 1st. But trading away a tip-of-the-spear NFL running back to save $10 million and gain a second-round pick (at best) is nowhere close to the value Chubb would provide as the Browns’ starting running back this season. To me, if the Browns truly believe they are in their Super Bowl window, that conversation is dead on arrival.

But what they could do is maximize Chubb by expanding his role inside the offense. With the addition of Deshaun Watson, the Browns are clearly moving towards becoming a more pass-heavy offense. Why should that approach not involve incorporating the team’s most dynamic playmaker?

Chubb has good enough hands to be a viable pass-catching option in this offense. Look no further than Chubb’s touchdown circus catch against the Cincinnati Bengals in his rookie year for proof of concept. But for everything that Chubb is, he’s not a refined route runner.

However, the Browns don’t need Chubb to be Marshall Faulk in order to maximize his effectiveness. This offseason, as coach Stefanski and his offensive staff are revising the playbook, they need to give Chubb three or four route concepts to sharpen up for the upcoming season. If their plan is to only use Chubb in the screen game and a check-down option as a receiver, then in all likelihood, we have already seen the maximized potential of Chubb in this offense.

Having Chubb occasionally run simple route concepts, such as wheel, flare, and angle routes would change how defenses approached the Browns when Chubb is on the field. The angle route in particular would be a game changer for Chubb to add to his arsenal because they could build off of that route concept over time. Even motioning Chubb out of the backfield and having him run a quick slant could provide easy yards with the potential to become big plays.

For the record, we are not talking about changing who Chubb is as a player. Chubb is a preeminent NFL running back and is best utilized by handing the ball off to him. This would be just a slight adjustment to where some of his touches would be coming from.

Chubb has played in 75 NFL games and has been targeted 158 times. That’s just over two targets per game. Increasing that workload by two additional targets and expanding the variance of his routes would make the Browns’ offense just that much more difficult to prepare for.

Nick Chubb is undoubtedly Cleveland’s best open-field runner, and until a better option emerges, they need to find ways to be more creative with how they get him the ball. The 2023 season depends on it.

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