The NFL has done as much as it can to minimize the physicality of professional football. Whether it is rules about kicks and punts, limitations to how a quarterback can get touched or where a defender can tackle an offensive player, “safety” has become the key.
We put the word safety in quotes because a violent game can never be safe.
While not directly rule-related, running backs have continued to see their value slide as wide-open passing offenses create more big plays. Cleveland Browns RB Nick Chubb is the exception to almost every rule.
The Browns extended his contract without any holdout or trade request. Chubb doesn’t seek attention with headline-grabbing quotes. Cleveland’s main runner is also far more explosive than any other back in the NFL:
For many Browns fans, these kind of great numbers means they want to see Chubb on the field more often. In 2022, the Georgia Bulldogs product was third in the league with 302 carries, 47 behind league leader Derrick Henry. In 2021, despite missing three games, Chubb had 228 carries, over 100 behind league leader Jonathan Taylor.
Despite the lower workload, or because of it, Chubb is explosive with his big plays.
Just looking at the 10 yards or more mark, it is easy to see why analytics has taken to more passing. 98 players averaged 10 yards or more per reception last year.
In 2023, Cleveland wants to have a nice balance of both rushing and passing the ball. With the most explosive rusher, by far, the Browns can get production out of the run game while giving Chubb some rest while throwing the ball around to a talented group of receivers and tight ends.
Chubb is also expected to see an uptick in targets in the passing game after never having 50 or more targets and never topping 300 yards receiving.
While fans will continue to call for more Chubb, it seems Cleveland’s usage plan is working. We will never know if more carries would lead to a more worn-down Browns running back. We do know that Chubb has been great as he has been used and, hopefully, will get a few more touches in the passing game to continue his impact while minimizing the pounding his body takes.
Are you surprised at the gap between Chubb and the rest of the NFL? Join the comment section below and let us know if you think more carries would be a problem for the Browns back? Would he lose explosiveness or just produce more?