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Appreciating running back Nick Chubb

Let’s take a moment to remember that Chubb is the league’s best running back and one of the best in Cleveland’s storied history.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 edition of the HBO series Hard Knocks featuring the Cleveland Browns had several memorable moments, many highlighting the overall incompetence of then-head coach Hue Jackson.

One moment that stands came in the first episode and featured running back Nick Chubb, one of Cleveland’s second-round selections in that year’s NFL Draft. The clip shows Chubb’s arrival at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport where Chubb is greeted at the baggage carousel not with fanfare but by a fan with no idea who Chubb is, even though he finished his college career at Georgia as the second-leading rusher in the program’s history.

In hindsight, the clip revealed just who Chubb is as he came to town with a backpack and a low-key attitude, clearly not burdened with the need to be the center of attention.

Since those early days with the Browns, Chubb has set the standard as a player who puts in the work in the offseason, avoids the spotlight, and performs at a high level on Sundays. While other running backs may get more national attention - Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans, Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants and Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings to name a few - Chubb has staked his claim as the best running back in the league.

In a year when the Browns and the NFL lost the game’s greatest running back with the passing of Hall of Famer Jim Brown, it feels appropriate to take a moment and marvel at the work that Chubb has done so far in his first five seasons with the Browns.

In terms of single-season performances, Chubb has:

  • Three of the top 11 rushing seasons in franchise history, topped by his 2022 season when he rushed for 1,525 yards, a figure only topped by Brown’s three best seasons.
  • Two of the top 10 seasons in rushing touchdowns with 12 in both 2020 and 2022. The only other players in the top 10 are Brown and fellow Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly.

Looking at the team’s career list, Chubb currently sits at:

  • Fourth in rushing yards with 6,341, just 933 yards behind Kelly for second place.
  • Third in rushing touchdowns with 48.

Finally, Chubb has averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which is the same as Brown and just 0.5 yards per carry behind the career average of Marion Motley, yet another Hall of Fame running back.

As good as Chubb has been so far, the 2023 season could be set up to be one of his best. If quarterback Deshaun Watson returns to his prior form and the additions that general manager Andrew Berry made to the wide receiver position click, then opposing defenses are going to be focused on Cleveland’s passing game, which would leave numerous opportunities for Chubb to do some damage running the ball.

Chubb has come a long way since that first introduction to Cleveland, and as good as he has been so far, the best may still be yet to come.