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Cleveland Browns Training Camp 2021: RB Preview (Part 1)

The Browns still have the best running back tandem in the NFL (to go along with possibly the best running back).

Cleveland Browns Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

With our quarterback preview complete, we now move on to the running back position. This will be broken down into two parts, starting with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D’Ernest Johnson.


Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange via Imagn Content Services, LLC

1. Nick Chubb - Starting RB

Height: 5-11 | Weight: 227 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 4 years | College: Georgia

Nick Chubb is coming off of another outstanding season. Statistically, he was featured in more of a split role with Kareem Hunt than before, but also missed four games with a knee injury. He still finished the season with over 1,000 yards rushing, a career-best 5.6 YPC, and 12 rushing touchdowns. The number of clutch runs he had late in a game was a big factor in the Browns’ success at closing out games in 2020.

On the PFF list of Top 50 players in the NFL, Chubb came in at No. 37, but also the top running back. He has the highest PFF grade among running backs since 2018, which includes the best broken tackle rate. This gem of a run epitomizes Chubb’s strengths all in one clip:

The Browns will also need to focus on contract negotiations for Chubb, as he’ll command something in the range of a 4-year deal worth $50 million. Here’s to hoping that Cleveland resists any temptation to lowball Chubb because of another talented running back being on the roster. I thought the tandem of Chubb and Hunt wouldn’t be maximized to the fullest potential — not because of the backs themselves, but because “how will a head coach find the right balance and role for both guys?” Kevin Stefanski did that masterfully in 2020, and it proved to be the strength of the offense.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cleveland Browns Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

2. Kareem Hunt - Co-Starting RB

Height: 5-11 | Weight: 216 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 5 years | College: Toledo

Despite being a bit banged up last year, Kareem Hunt played in all 16 games and finished the season with 198 carries for 841 yards (4.3 YPC) and 6 touchdowns to go along with 38 catches for 304 yards and 5 more touchdowns. I labeled him a co-starting running back because it doesn’t feel right to call him a backup when both he and Chubb are vital to the team’s success.

Just like Chubb, Hunt also has one of the league’s best elusiveness ratings, forcing defenders to miss tackles. He was also among the league leaders in runs of 10+ yards, and I think he would’ve posted better than a 4.3 YPC average had it not been for the groin injury he was working through for a stretch of the season.

One of the things we didn’t see a lot of last year was a package that featured both Chubb and Hunt on the field at the same time. Both backs had great seasons in 2020, so it’d be understandable if Stefanski sticks with what works. But I still have a level of intrigue with that package to see if it can throw the defense off or improve upon the screen game, which had its ups and downs.

Hunt signed a two-year contract extension last year, which will keep him on the Browns through the 2022 season in what could be the prime years of his career, a luxury that remains unique to the Browns.

Final Roster Odds: 100%


Cleveland Browns Off-Season Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

3. D’Ernest Johnson - Backup RB

Height: 5-10 | Weight: 208 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: South Florida

Despite Chubb and Hunt dominating the headlines, D’Ernest Johnson stepped up for a couple of game-closing runs last year, finishing the season with 33 carries for 166 yards (5.0 YPC) to go along with 3 catches for 14 yards. His biggest game came against the Dallas Cowboys (a game in which Chubb went down to injury), where he ran 13 times for 95 yards. He had long runs on the season of 28, 28, and 21 yards.

The game against the Cowboys can be taken with somewhat of a grain of salt, because that defense seemed historically bad. Nonetheless, Johnson took advantage of the opportunity to shine. That will hold some weight in 2021 as he competes to hold on to the backup running back job. He was also the team’s kick returner for most of 2020, although that role could be open to a variety of players again, including JoJo Natson. I have Johnson’s odds at 80% to make the roster, which gives a little bit of room for some of the newcomers to steal a roster spot away from him in camp.

Final Roster Odds: 80%


Poll

Who will have over 1,000 yards rushing in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Nick Chubb
    (292 votes)
  • 0%
    Kareem Hunt
    (2 votes)
  • 61%
    Both
    (480 votes)
  • 0%
    Neither
    (7 votes)
781 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Should the Browns try some packages where both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are on the field at the same time?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Yes, it should be mixed in more this year
    (636 votes)
  • 9%
    No, just leave them be as they were
    (63 votes)
699 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will D’Ernest Johnson be the team’s third running back this season?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Yes
    (367 votes)
  • 49%
    No
    (354 votes)
721 votes total Vote Now