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Browns rushing into season with NFL’s top running back duo

Both PFF and NFL.com give Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt the nod as the league’s best unit.

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Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

There was a point during the 2020 NFL season where it appeared the Cleveland Browns would boast a pair of 1,000-yard running backs.

Running back Nick Chubb held up his end of the bargain, finishing the season with 1,067 rushing yards despite missing four games with a knee injury. Fellow running back Kareem Hunt came up 159 yards short of joining Chubb at 1,000 yards and making them the first pair of running backs to accomplish the feat since Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers in 2009.

When you factor in receiving yards, however, Chubb and Hunt had almost identical seasons as Chubb finished with 1,217 combined yards and 12 touchdowns, while Hunt posted 1,145 combined yards and 11 touchdowns.

The way that Chubb and Hunt work well together and put a strain on opposing defenses is why the Browns head into the 2021 season with the league’s best running back duo, according to Ben Linsey at Pro Football Focus and Bucky Brooks at NFL.com.

PFF gives Chubb and Hunt the top spot based in part on their ability to make tacklers miss:

It’s not a stretch to say that Cleveland has two top-10 running backs on its roster in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, two of the most elusive runners in the league. Hunt is tied for second in missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (0.23) among all running backs with at least 250 carries since 2017. The only qualifying running back with a higher rate over that same time frame is Chubb (0.25). It’s a luxury to have two elite options like that available in the case of injury. That was on display in 2020 while Chubb was sidelined.

Bucky Brooks at NFL.com puts Chubb and Hunt at No. 1 by highlighting how their different skill sets create problems for opposing defenses:

The Browns’ dynamic duo not only spearheaded the NFL’s third-ranked rushing offense but also anchored a unit that creates problems for defensive coordinators around the league. Nick Chubb, a two-time Pro Bowler with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé, brings the attitude and the pop as a grinder between the tackles. Kareem Hunt is RB1b in the backfield as a former NFL rushing champ with the sizzle and sauce to create explosive plays on the perimeter. He is a unique change-of-pace back with feature-back skills to keep the offense rolling when Chubb is out of the game.

Now that the NFL has added a 17th game to the schedule, Chubb and Hunt will once again be in the running this fall for a 1,000-yard rushing season. If he stays healthy, Chubb seems like a lock to eclipse the mark for the third consecutive year. Hunt may fall short again given that there are only so many carries to go around in the running game, which is OK because of what he brings to the passing game.

The bigger goal is a Super Bowl, and no matter what their final individual numbers are, having Chubb and Hunt in the backfield gives the Browns a better chance of finally reaching that elusive goal.