Browns fans should not expect the Nick Chubb of old in 2024

Nick Chubb has been one of the best backs in the NFL, but fans should limit their expectations for 2024
Cleveland Browns, Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns, Nick Chubb / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

Listen. Before you get the pitchforks out, let me explain. The Cleveland Browns and we, the fans, should not realistically expect Nick Chubb to return to his normal self after suffering a major knee injury in Week 2 of last season. This was the second time in his football life that he has had such an injury, suffering a major knee injury while he was at Georgia.

Not only is Chubb coming off an injury of this magnitude, but he also turns 29 this year (10 years older and a couple of thousand hits later). If we've learned anything from watching football for the amount of time we have, it's the fact that the closer running backs get to 30, the closer their career is coming to an end. There are exceptions to the rule, but those are few and far between.

This is by no means a write-off for Chubb. He could certainly come back and be just fine, but that shouldn't be the expectation. It's hard to think of Chubb as anything but superhuman after watching him torture opposing defenses for years, but even as his favorite character, Batman suffers setbacks as well.

Chubb is progressing in his rehab, but he doesn't have a target date set to make his highly anticipated return. This is smart as there are 17 games in a season. The Browns can likely get by without Chubb for four to six weeks, which would mean he could really be a factor down the stretch and into the postseason, should the Browns qualify again.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Chubb, but ESPN took a stab at predicting his stats for the upcoming season, and the results are a bit surprising. They have him rushing 183 times for 891 yards, and six touchdowns in 11 games. That would be quite the redemption tour for Chubb and the Browns. Even that seems farfetched, but if that comes anywhere close to being true, then this could be a magical season.

Depth is key at the running back position, and the Browns have that

Last season, general manager Andrew Berry failed to add depth to the running back room, but didn't make the same mistake twice. He signed veterans D'Onta Foreman and Nyheim Hines, which aren't moves that will put the Browns as Super Bowl favorites, but ones that add much-needed depth.

Jerome Ford filled in admirably for Chubb a season ago, rushing for 813 yards on 204 touches and four touchdowns. He also racked up 319 yards and five touchdowns through the air. That was a tall ask for someone who came off a rookie season in which he carried the ball eight times for 12 yards.

Surprisingly, Ford was named as a potential cut candidate for the Browns during the season. That doesn't seem likely, even when Chubb does return to the lineup. Foreman, who struggled a season ago in Chicago, but had over 900 yards the year prior in Carolina, can be the lead back or a good backup to Ford. Hines on the other hand, is coming off a torn ACL of his own, suffered in a jet skiing accident last summer that cost him his 2023 season.

At the end of the day, the best possible outcome would be Chubb to miss minimal time and return to his former self, but those expectations need to be used with caution. Should he need to miss the first month or two of the season, the Browns now have the depth that can keep them afloat.

More Browns coverage