Cleveland Browns rushing attack is way overrated

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is the best in the business, but one player doesn't make a premier rushing attack by himself.
Nick Chubb waves good-bye to Steeler defenders.
Nick Chubb waves good-bye to Steeler defenders. / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

Nick Chubb is arguably the best running back in the NFL, but last season, with Chubb achieving a career high 1525 yards and Kareem Hunt adding 468 more, they finished only sixth in the NFL in rushing yards. Without Hunt, they will give Chubb all the carries and pass targets he wants, but the team totals will almost certainly decrease from 2022. The great plan for replacing the rest of Hunt's touches is to pin their hopes on a breakout season from second-year man Jerome Ford, who produced 12 yards last season on eight carries, or 1.5 yards per carry. Is that enough to justify optimism that he will replace a former Pro Bowl running back as the number two man on the depth chart?

Third on the depth chart is Demetric Felton who had one carry for -4 yards. After that are a pair of undrafted kids with good Combine/Pro Day numbers but limited college achievements. Nate McCrary (Saginaw Valley State) had 75 yards from scrimmage for the Ravens in the 2021 preseason. In the 2021 regular season, he had one carry for negative yardage, which is actually a rather substantial credential for the 2023 Browns. Hassan Hall had so-so numbers for an unimpressive Georgia Tech team in the ACC. However, check out his Pro Day numbers: 4.45 for the 40, 37 inch vertical, 10-foot-10 in the broad, and 4.0 flat in the short shuttle. Let's keep an eye on him, but a good Pro Day does not prove he can replace Kareem Hunt. Anyway, after Nick Chubb the backups have a sum total of 41 NFL net rushing yards. It's "Chubb or bust" unless some of the youngsters really step up.

Other teams actually define roles for their third and fourth running backs besides carrying water for the top two guys. Not the Browns. Still, the Browns running game is imposing just because of Nick Chubb, but they will not be elite unless they can develop backups and role players. The 2023 offense needs backs who are decent receivers and blockers, i.e., who can parlay a good chip block into a receiving route, especially on screen plays. They could use a big back who can gain the tough yards in short yardage situations or possibly be used as a blocker for Chubb. As Bart Simpson might ask, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

Unfortunately, the answer from Homer Simpson is still "No."

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