What a rollercoaster 12 months it’s been for this Browns offense.
One year ago, the team had high expectations heading into the 2021 season.
Baker Mayfield had just led the squad to its first taste of playoff success in some time, falling just short of the AFC champions Kansas City.
And the receivers looked promising as well, headlined by Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr.
But 365 days is a long time, and what a difference it has made.
Mayfield is gone, jettisoned to the Panthers.
So too are Landry and Beckham, the latter of whom won a Super Bowl ring before anyone on Cleveland smelled the big dance.
And in their stead came Deshaun Watson, who faces league discipline over serious and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.
It’s been a whirlwind.
But two staples have stuck around: Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb.
And recently, one was awarded serious pre-season honors by ESPN.
Chubb Checks Out
Chubb was rated the No. 3 running back heading into next season, in a survey of NFL execs, players, and coaches conducted by ESPN.
Here’s what Jeremy Fowler had to say about Chubb’s game:
“Chubb’s game only seems to improve with time. Over the past two seasons, he has averaged 5.6 and 5.5 yards per carry, up from his first two seasons in the league. His 3.0 yards per rush after contact led the league for players with at least 120 attempts. And he broke off a run of at least 70 yards for the third time in four years.”
It’s no surprise to see Chubb’s name on the list.
In fact, he earned at least one vote as the league’s best running back heading into next season.
As Fowler noted:
“Chubb ranked second in the NFL in runs of 20-plus yards with 12, behind Taylor (14). He was also a road-game closer, averaging 6.3 yards per carry on the road.”
The two backs ranked higher than Chubb in the final tally are Derrick Jones and Jonathan Taylor.
Jones was running away with the league’s rushing title last season (and generated some MVP buzz) before an injury forced him to miss significant time.
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) July 13, 2022
Taylor stepped up in his place, rushing for over 1,800 yards in a breakout season
Chubb, to his credit, earned a Pro Bowl nod last year after rushing for 1,259 yards and landing eight rushing touchdowns in 14 games of duty.
Fortunately for the Browns, Chubb isn’t the only star runner on the roster.
Chubb’s teammate Kareem Hunt is also a capable back, going for five touchdowns in just eight games last year.
Hunt is also just a season removed from an 841-yard, five-touchdown campaign in 2020, coming off the bench in all but five games.
In other systems, Hunt might be a team’s No. 1 option.
But in Cleveland, he’s a luxury, forcing opposing defenses to stay honest even when the starter takes a play off.
Whether Hunt sticks around is another question.
— ikigai. (@j_by_default) July 11, 2022
Hunt’s entering the last year of his contract and is set to hit free agency next summer.
Could the Browns preempt Hunt’s departure via trade and recoup lost draft capital?
It’s not a bad idea.
But for now, the Browns are likely happy with some semblance of stability on offense, something the team has lacked over the last calendar year.