It’s a great time to be a Browns fan. Thanks to John Dorsey, Freddie Kitchens, and Baker Mayfield, we haven’t had our typical high first round pick(s) and arguments about which quarterback to choose this offseason. But Browns fans have had plenty of things to talk about recently: whether it has been hand wringing over the loss of a good RG in Kevin Zeitler, excitement about Odell Beckham Jr., or anxiousness about John Dorsey’s cap management and long-term strategy, this offseason has been full of hope, Hype™, and change.
Fans may be literally running in the streets to celebrate other players (rightfully so), but somewhere Nick Chubb is out there, not even getting recognized at the airport, quietly going about his business.
And his business is being a damn good running back.
Despite all the good things our line and coaching staff did toward the end of last year, the Browns too often relied on Chubb to drive the running game. Between missed blocking assignments and scheme, Chubb was tasked with using his vision or ability to break tackles to make things work. And he did.
What the metrics say
Football Outsiders has methods of attempting to separate the performance of an offensive line in the running game from a running back. You can read more on their methodology here, but it boils down to this:
“We know that at some point in every long running play, the running back has gotten past all of his offensive line blocks. From here on, the rest of the play is dependent on the runner’s own speed and elusiveness, combined with the speed and tackling ability of the defensive players. If [a running back] breaks through the line for 50 yards, avoiding tacklers all the way to the goal line, his offensive line has done a great job -- but they aren’t responsible for most of that run.”
From this line of thinking, FBO develops a few relevant metrics:
Adjusted Line Yards
This metric takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:
- Losses: 120% value
- 0-4 Yards: 100% value
- 5-10 Yards: 50% value
- 11+ Yards: 0% value
Then Football Outsiders adjusts that yardage. But essentially, a higher number here means the team is making it easier for it’s RBs.
Browns Rank: 18th
Open Field Yards
From FBO: “gives the portion of the team’s rushing average gained after the first 10 yards of each run. So for a 10-yard run, no yards are counted; for a 15-yard run, five yards are counted; for an 80-yard run, 70 yards are counted. This number gives you an idea of how much of a team’s running game was based on the breakaway speed of the running backs.”
Browns Rank: 4th
These are the % of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Browns Rank: 29th best (4th worst)
This is the % of runs on 3rd or 4th down with less than 2 yards to go that the offense converted.
Browns Rank: 32nd (worst in the NFL)
What does all this mean?
“A team with a low ranking in Adjusted Line Yards but a high ranking in Open Field Yards is heavily dependent on its running back breaking long runs to make the running game work.”
The Browns were just about average in Adjusted Line Yards (18th), and very good in Open Field Yards (4th), which means that we depended on Nick Chubb breaking long runs to make the running game work.
The fact that we were near the bottom of the league in Power Success and Stuffs is also a fairly negative reflection on our line/scheme from a year ago. It isn’t typically a running back’s fault when he’s hit in the backfield for a loss. Grinding out those tough yards on 3rd and short when everyone in the stadium knows you’re running requires a great plan or a great line.
What the metrics don’t say
These metrics are great, but they paint an imperfect picture of the game. The only way to truly evaluate Chubb is to turn on the tape and watch him run:
The amount of times in that highlight reel that Chubb makes a man miss, shrugs off a tackle, sets up a defender to run himself out of the play, drags a tackler or two forward for a healthy gain, or simply outruns people is staggering. The tape truly backs up the metrics in this case, and it makes me truly excited to see what Chubb can do in year 2..
Let’s all just take a minute to appreciate Nick Chubb.