clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nick Chubb ... pass-catching threat?

Opposing defenses may find out this fall just how talented Cleveland’s running back can be in the passing game.

NFL: Cleveland Browns OTA Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL world has been abuzz in recent weeks over the current state of the running back position.

From players seeking a new deal - like Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders and Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts - to Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, who signed a revised one-year contract rather than hold out, there has been much hand-wringing over the current financial reality for what was once the NFL’s premier position.

Related: No limits for Nick Chubb, role expected to expand in 2023

Much of the talk surrounding Barkley is that he deserves to be one of the highest-paid at his position because he is a “three-down back” who can run the ball and also be a threat out of the backfield, unlike Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans and Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns.

Well, not to disparage a player that some claimed to be a generational talent in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Chubb may be more of a threat that some give him credit for, a reality that might hit opposing defenses smack in the jaw come this fall.

Let’s play the old “Which player would you choose” game for a moment. Combining the 2019, 2021 and 2022 seasons, which running back would you rather have catching passes out of the backfield:

  • Player A, who has caught an average of 74.7 percent of his targets, averaged 8.3 yards per reception and pulled in two touchdown catches.
  • Player B, who has caught an average of 72.8 percent of his targets, averaged 6.92 yards per reception and pulled in four touchdown catches.

If you have been paying attention, and we know you have been since you are here, then you know Player A is none other than Chubb, who has actually been on par with Barkley over those three seasons. (We tossed out 2020 when Barkley only played in two games due to an injury and 2018 when he had 91 receptions as Eli Manning’s check-down option.)

The biggest difference between the two players is that the Giants have thrown the ball more to Barkley (206 targets) than the Browns have with Chubb (111 targets). But that has as much to do with the fact that the Browns had Kareem Hunt as a pass-catching option the past four seasons while the Giants had Barkley and that was about it.

The narrative that Chubb can’t be a threat in the passing game looks a bit silly in the face of some basic stats as the Browns did not target Chubb because he is a liability, they simply chose to utilize Hunt to the best of his abilities in that role.

Now that Hunt is a free agent, there is a growing thought that the Browns will reduce Chubb’s workload when it comes to running the ball but still look to capitalize on his skillset by giving him more targets in the passing game. Not only will that give Chubb more opportunities to do his thing in space, but it will limit the pounding he takes when running the ball.

Chubb may not receive as much recognition for his contributions to the passing game, but when you look at the numbers it is pretty clear that the Browns have their own “generational talent” in the backfield.

And they didn’t have to use the No. 2 overall selection in the draft to get there!