Which Browns RB is Better?
By: Michael Welsh
The 2020 Cleveland Browns were a team that fans had been waiting on for way too many years. It was their first time making the playoffs since 2002 and their first playoff win since 1994. The team was very fun to watch and only got better as the year went on. Baker Mayfield played at a high level to finish out the season, but the running game was one of the best in the NFL, finishing fourth at 145.2 yards per game.
There isn’t another team in all of the football that has two true number one running backs on their roster. Kareem Hunt won the rushing title in his 2017 rookie year and Nick Chubb finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2019 after he lost the title to Derrick Henry in week 17. We got a taste of what they would look like on the field in the final few games of the 2019 season when Hunt came off his suspension, and in 2020 the dynamic duo proved to be game-changing week in and week out. It also helped to have Kareem Hunt when Nick Chubb went down with an MCL Sprain in week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys. Let’s take a look at their overall rushing stats and grades in the 2020 season.
Nick Chubb – 1,067 yards, 12 TDs 5.6 YPC – Pro Football Focus Grade – 87.2
Kareem Hunt – 841 yards, 6 TDs 4.2 YPC – Pro Football Focus Grade – 74.0
The beauty of having both of them is that their running styles compliment each other well. Nick Chubb can be bruising, but he is shifty and has elite breakaway speed. Kareem Hunt runs hard and mad, often carrying defenders down the field for extra yards.
Another thing to note is that they’re actually really good friends and both very unselfish players. Nick Chubb is probably the most humble and quietest player in the league. All he cares about is winning. There was a prime example of that when the Browns played the Texans in week 10 and Chubb ran out of bounds at the 1 yard line to end the game instead of scoring and forcing the defense to go back on the field. He’s a different breed. Kareem Hunt knows he could be a starter on any other team, but he loves Cleveland. He’s from Ohio after all and grew up a Browns fan. His friendship with Chubb and overall desire to win makes it an easy decision to stay on the team.
Kareem Hunt signed a contract extension in 2020 with the Browns through the 2022 season. Nick Chubb is still on his rookie deal, but will likely get a big contract soon. This is where things get tricky with their outlook on the team. What it comes down to is, how long can this last? General Manager Andrew Berry and Chief Strategy Office Paul DePodesta make up a very analytical front office and they will not want a lot of money tied up in the running back position. Fans would love to have Chubb and Hunt in the brown and orange for years to come, but realistically it will be very hard to keep both of them long term.
It is worth noting too that Hunt Played modestly while Chubb was hurt, rushing for 254 yards in four starts, but he never broke 100 yards in those games and averaged roughly 4.0 yards per carry. It was clear that the Browns were not as effective without Chubb, who is a much better and pure runner than Hunt. The stats with and without chubb are eye opening as well.
In 5 games with Chubb, the Browns scored 9 Rush TD while averaging 209.8 Rush YPG and 5.8 yards per rush.
In the 4 games without Chubb, the Browns scored 0 Rush TD while averaging 95.5 Rush YPG and 3.9 yards per rush.
Cleveland has a lot of players to pay in the near future, so it will be very interesting to see what happens with in the running back room. Nick Chubb seems like the type of player that would take less money on a contract if it meant helping the team, so that is a positive possibility to think about.
The Browns also don’t have to pay him just yet either if they decide to pick up his 5th-year option. The Browns have a 2-3 year Super Bowl window that they have to capitalize on before players get let go and tough decisions are made.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will likely be the great RB duo we witnessed in 2020 for at most two more seasons. After that, Andrew Berry will most likely let Hunt walk in free agency and sign Chubb to a long term deal.
The reality is, Hunt is good but Chubb is elite and more dynamic. Chubb was also running as a man possessed down the stretch, rushing for 732 yards and 8 TDs to finish the season after coming back from injury.
The good thing is, they’re both young and in their prime and there’s no doubt that Kevin Stefanski will continue to utilize them in the right ways. There is a real shot that they could both be 1,000-yard rushers next season, which rarely happens in the modern NFL. But when it comes time to part ways, the Browns will be just fine with Nick Chubb.