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Data: Browns struggled running the ball on 1st down in 2022 but kept trying

Nick Chubb’s usage has been a bone of contention for many Browns fans

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns offense has been and will be a big conversation going into the 2023 season. GM Andrew Berry spent the offseason adding weapons in the pass-catching game while ignoring the running back room despite losing D’Ernest Johnson and, likely, Kareem Hunt.

WRs Elijah Moore, Marquise Goodwin and Cedric Tillman should add dynamic playmakers at multiple levels while TE Jordan Akins adds a productive talent that QB Deshaun Watson has experience with.

Despite all of that, RB Nick Chubb is the most consistent, best weapon on Cleveland’s offense.

How HC Kevin Stefanski uses Chubb has been a bit of consternation for Browns fans. Some simply say he should be run more often. Others have problems with when Chubb was off the field during important plays. Still, others felt that his rushes were mostly predictable.

While we don’t have any data about how many touches Chubb should have or when he should get rest, the predictability of his rushing attempts clearly seems to be a problem.

First, Stefanski called run plays on more first downs than all but six teams, none of which made the playoffs. The data, organized by first-down passes, made it pretty clear to defenses that a run was likely coming on that down:

(If it doesn’t expand in your browser, Cleveland attempted a pass on 50.6% of their first downs with Tennessee, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Carolina, Chicago and Washington the only teams to pass less/run more on first down.)

How predictable was it? The second set of data proves that point:

While limited to first-half runs on first down, the data clearly shows that Stefanski calling runs regularly limited the running backs’ ability to pick up good yardage. Simply, Cleveland’s offense was facing second and long way too often early in games.

The amount of early-down runs and the lack of turnover-worthy passes lends credence to a very safe offensive plan in 2022.

In 2023, the hope is that a more varied offensive approach will put the team in a position to be successful. While Chubb may not get as many carries early, how he is used may be more important than how often he is used. Getting to see the team’s lead back out of pistol and shotgun could create a lot of running lanes in 2023 with all those added weapons on the outside.

Chubb was very productive last year from those formations:

We are just a couple of weeks away from getting a chance to see the new Stefanski offense in action during training camp. We can only hope that a few more throws on first downs make it more successful when they do run the ball on those downs.