Can Nick Chubb succeed in an offense built for Deshaun Watson?

Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in the NFL but where does he fit in with an offense built around Deshaun Watson?
Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

The Cleveland Browns have gone all in on Deshaun Watson heading into 2023. They have added multiple weapons to the receiver room in Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin. They brought back Ethan Pocic on the line.

Still, the biggest change taking place is Kevin Stefanski's playbook evolving to take advantage of the fact they believe Watson is the engine that needs to drive this offense. With all the focus on Watson, where does that leave the best running back in the NFL? Can Nick Chubb still thrive in an offense built to pass first?

Did the Nick Chubb and Deshaun Watson tandem work in 2022?

When looking at last season, we need to keep in mind that it was only six games with a bunch of changes being done on the fly offensively. First, let's look at the numbers before Watson took over in 2022.

In the 11 games without Watson, Chubb carried the ball 18 times a game averaging 94.45 yards per game and 5.19 yards per carry. Chubb also had 17 total receptions in the first 11 games. Numbers we are used to seeing from Chubb throughout his career. So what happened when Watson took over?

Listening to the announcers on Sunday down the stretch, there seemed to be a concern with Chubb working in a shotgun-heavy offense built for Watson. Jake Burns blows that thought process out of the water based on Chubb's 2022 results in the shotgun. 

"The uptick saw 92 carries for 587 rushing yards from shotgun looks from Chubb alone. That total was good for 5th in the NFL and his 6.0 yards per attempt number was the best in the league. Their scheme style was heavily dependent on lateral runs off pin/pull schemes with multiple linemen out in front of him and allowing Chubb to work off those blocks. "

Jake Burns

As a matter of fact, in Chubb's career, he has run 307 times for 1,742 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. The Browns will see more spread shotgun/pistol formations in 2023 with Watson at the helm. So what happened in those six games last season?

With Watson under center for the Browns in 2022, Chubb carried the ball 17 times a game for 81 yards per game and 4.76 yards per carry. He did have his second-worst performance of the year against the Cincinnati Bengals in that stretch.

His worst game was a few weeks before, with Jacoby Brissett at the helm. They happen. Take out the clunker against Cincy, and he jumps to 90.4 yards per game. So from a running standpoint, the carries did not change, and he still churned out yards like he always has.

The more interesting tidbit that most may not realize is that Chubb became more involved in the passing game down the stretch. As written above Chubb had only 17 receptions with Brissett running things. With Watson taking over, he hauled in ten receptions with a season-high five in the final week.

Clearly, there is still room in this offense for Chubb's 18 carries a game and the potential of him getting more run catching the ball. Based on what we saw, this offense could potentially provide Chubb with more touches, if healthy, than he has ever had previously.

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