In Part 1 of our training camp preview on running backs for the Cleveland Browns, we look at Nick Chubb, Jerome Ford, and John Kelly.
1. Nick Chubb - Starting RB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 227 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 6 years | College: Georgia
Nick Chubb has been a force to be reckoned with ever since he entered the league, and last year was no different. He started all 17 games, carrying the ball a career-high 302 times for 1,525 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. He also had 27 catches for 239 yards and 1 touchdown. Chubb put up similar numbers in 2019, a year in which Kareem Hunt was slowly being introduced into the offense. Despite Hunt being healthy all of last season, Chubb took on the bulk of the workload for Cleveland (even though some fans still complained about his lack of touches...).
Hunt is no longer with the team, so Chubb figures to be a workhorse back again — but will there be an adjustment of sorts because of the quarterback under center? In 11 games without Watson last year, Chubb had 200 carries for 1,039 yards (5.2 YPC) and 12 touchdowns. In 6 games with Watson, he had 102 carries for 486 yards (4.8 YPC) and 0 touchdowns. The production was there, but the lack of touchdowns stands out as a mix of Kevin Stefanski utilizing the passing game near the red zone, or Deshaun Watson possibly taking it in himself. To be fair, though, the Browns went several games under Watson before the offense even had their first touchdown, so I don’t know if there is much to read into here.
One thing that has bugged me over the years is that I think the Browns should be taking advantage of Chubb’s receiving abilities a bit more. That is difficult to quantify, but he has good hands and can win some match-ups against linebackers. He is already great at breaking tackles when there is little space to work with, so why not get it to him more with some one-on-one matchups and see what he can do? We’ll see if that changes with a quarterback like Watson. Watson does have experience at throwing to a running back often — in 2019 with the Texans, former Browns RB Duke Johnson tallied 44 catches for 410 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Jerome Ford - Backup RB
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 210 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Cincinnati
The Browns selected Jerome Ford in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. His regular season stats weren’t much to go by, as he had 8 carries for 12 yards (1.5 YPC) in 13 games. He saw more action as the team’s kickoff return man, where he averaged 24.1 yards per return on 30 attempts.
Ford got to show off his skills a little bit more in last year’s preseason, where he ran 19 times for 88 yards and 1 touchdown, to go along with 8 catches for 71 yards and 1 touchdown. He also lost a fumble. Both of his touchdowns came in that first preseason game, so his stock was immediately escalated a bit in that short glimpse. Here was his receiving touchdown:
One crucial skill for a backup running back is for them to be good in pass protection. During mandatory minicamp recently, running backs coach Stump Mitchell praised Ford’s overall skillset, including how they worked on his blocking:
“Jerome’s got a skillset that allows him to do anything and everything. Pass protection, we worked a lot (on that) this spring, so that was the really the only thing we didn’t really have a good handle on because he didn’t do it a lot in college.”
Ford also appears to be the favorite to continue returning kicks. The backup job is his to lose, but given his lack of NFL experience, the rest of the guys competing in camp certainly have an opportunity to make a splash too.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
3. John Kelly - Backup RB
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 208 lbs | Age: 26
Experience: 2 years | College: Tennessee
Returning for his fourth season with the Browns is John Kelly. The reason that I italicize fourth is because it’s not often you see a guy stick around that long, yet only have a combined 2 carries for 13 yards to show for it. Kelly has been a staple on the practice squad, and this is the make-or-break year for him. With Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson gone, he has a chance to be the team’s third running back if he can fend off the newcomers. Otherwise, this would figure to be the end of the road for him in Cleveland.
Kelly has been the Browns’ leading rusher for the past two preseasons. He also has shown the ability to provide blocks in pass protection during those reps, as evidenced by these clips from 2021:
Before playing with the Browns, Kelly was a 6th round draft pick by the Rams in 2018.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
How do you expect Nick Chubb’s stats to look this season?
This poll is closed
He will set career highs and blow everyone away again
About the same as last year
Not nearly as much as last year, because the Browns will have a heavier passing attack
Will Jerome Ford win the backup running back job?
This poll is closed