The Cleveland Browns had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL in 2021 even with a key member missing for much of the season.
That situation was remedied on Tuesday when the team announced the return of running backs coach Stump Mitchell.
Stump Mitchell is back in the building and believes the arrow is 'pointing up' for the 2022 season— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) March 8, 2022
Mitchell missed the final 10 games of last season as he had to undergo two procedures to fix a previous knee injury after his knee began bothering him over the summer. It was one of the first times that Mitchell was not on the sidelines as either a player or coach since his high school days in the 1970s, according to clevelandbrowns.com.
That was a tough adjustment for a lifer like the 62-year-old Mitchell (quote via clevelandbrowns.com):
“I think this is probably the first time I ever missed coaching a game, either in college or the NFL. It’s definitely an adjustment. You want to be able to play and help your team out, and you try to do that by supporting them. But it’s still not the same as being there. You want to be in front of the guys. You want to be in the battle with them as well.”
Even with Mitchell sidelined, and with running backs Nick Chubb (three games) and Kareem Hunt (nine games) missing time with injuries, the Browns still finished fourth in the NFL with 2,471 rushing yards, tied for fifth with 20 rushing touchdowns, and topped the league in rushing average with 5.09 yards per carry.
Mitchell had high praise on Tuesday for his running backs, including D’Ernest Johnson, who stepped up whenever Chubb or Hunt were out of the lineup (quotes via team website):
“When you can get your backup to come in and perform just as well as those guys, that’s what we aim and coach for. That’s when we as coaches take our pride in coaching the second- and third-string guys because we know at some point in time, they’re going to be our first-string guy.
“I think we have a great thing going here in Cleveland. It’s a good feeling being able to be around guys who want to continue to get better and strive to win. I think everybody’s mind is in the right place, and the arrow is definitely pointing up.”
The Browns had a solid season in 2021 even with key people missing time during the season due to injuries.
Now that they have the band back together, Cleveland’s running game should once again be one of the league’s best in 2022.