There was no question that the Cleveland Browns offense would miss Nick Chubb when he suffered a right MCL injury in week three.
The only question was, “how much would his presence be missed?”.
As good as Kareem Hunt and the rest of the running back crew has been at times, there’s simply no replacing Chubb.
With a hopeful return to action this week, having Chubb in the backfield again will be a boost to not just the offense, but the entire team as well.
Speaking of the #Browns, star RB Nick Chubb, out more than a month with an MCL sprain, is expected back at practice this week and the team is hopeful that he’ll play Sunday, source said. That would help an already stout run game.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 8, 2020
Big Play Potential
There are few things as exciting as a big Nick Chubb run down field.
The run in the first Baltimore game last year will always be a treat to watch.
Heading into week eight, Chubb was still among the league’s best this season for chunk-yardage plays.
Nick Chubb appreciation post pic.twitter.com/1pj15r8rrI
— Gridiron (@Gridiron) October 31, 2020
Not that the other running backs on the roster aren’t capable of big plays, Nick Chubb just takes that threat to another level.
Nick Chubb should be in any conversation about the best pure runners in da leaguepic.twitter.com/h5qsrmIo8j
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) July 2, 2020
— OBR Film Breakdown (@TheOBRFilmBDN) October 29, 2020
Helping The Passing Game
Defenses have to account for big-play running backs like Chubb on almost every single snap.
For the Browns offense, that means opening things up for Baker Mayfield.
He’s shown the ability to make things happen even without Chubb.
The second win against Cincinnati was one Mayfield went and took hold of.
The loss to the Raiders, however, serves as a reminder to what Chubb brings to the offense.
The Raiders have allowed 117 yards on the ground per game this season.
In the loss, Cleveland tallied just 101 total rushing yards.
While not completely absent, the ground game was never able to sustain success.
This allowed the Raiders defense to sit back in coverage without the fear of the Browns running it down their throat.
With the sub-par conditions that day, receivers struggled to catch balls that Mayfield put on the money.
When Chubb isn’t there to eat up big yardage and there’s no Odell Beckham Jr. to free up other receivers, the defense has far fewer threats to worry about.
This makes things that much more difficult for Baker and the passing game.
Let’s go back to the Las Vegas game again.
Looking at the time of possession battle, the Raiders won this by a landslide (37:43 to 22:17).
This stemmed from two issues: the Browns offense being unable to sustain drives and the defense not getting off the field.
The two go hand-in-hand in the battle for field position.
As the Browns offense stalls, the defense grows tired.
The second half exemplified both of those problems.
Over the course of his career, Chubb has averaged over five yards per carry on both first and second down.
Getting him back in the lineup will help the Browns offense sustain drives and keep the defense rested.
Of course, getting Chubb back returns the Browns to being one of the best rushing teams in the NFL.
Browns rushing average per game with Nick Chubb: 204.5 yards.
Browns rushing average per game without Nick Chubb: 99.9 yards.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) October 25, 2020
If Chubb is able to return this week, the next three defenses he will face are in the bottom-ten against the run.
That should have Kevin Stefanski, Chubb, and the entire offensive line licking their chops as they should be able to impose their will in all of those games.
Over the first four games, all games in which Chubb played, the Browns recorded 818 total yards on the ground.
In the four games without him, that number falls to just 382.
Chubb is one of the best running backs in the NFL.
There was no hiding the fact that his absence would hurt this team.
His return, which could be against Houston, will have a huge positive impact for the Browns.