On the heels of an embarrassing collapse against the Jets and with plenty of self-inflicted issues, the Browns find themselves relying on Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to weather the storm.
The Cleveland Browns had a golden opportunity to break an infamous streak that embodies just how bad the organization has been throughout the years. All they had to do was hold a 13-point lead with two minutes left against the New York Jets.
It would have given Cleveland consecutive wins to start the season for the first time since 1993, when Bill Belichick was head coach. If you weren’t a math major, that comes out to almost 30 years.
Running back Nick Chubb took the blame for the ensuing collapse and loss, but he’s the last person who should have. In fact, he and backfield partner Kareem Hunt are essentially the reason why they might have a chance at weathering the storm until QB Deshaun Watson returns from suspension in Week 13.
Mind you the Browns threw 2018 No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield into the doghouse, clearing the way for Watson, who they acquired via trade with the Texans in June.
Watson — who didn’t play a single game last season — is serving an 11-game suspension without pay after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
No matter, per the Browns. They quickly made him the fifth-highest-paid QB in the league with a five-year, $230 million contract.
Perhaps they bit off more than they could chew for the 2022 season. The defense is letting up 27.5 points per game (7th-highest in the NFL) and they’re relying on backup QB Jacoby Brissett to carry the offense while Watson’s out. Brissett is 15-24 in 39 career starts.
Thus, all the weight falls on Chubb and Hunt to weather the storm in the meantime, and the dynamic duo might be capable. Even if it’s a big ask amid a pass-heavy era of football, it’s already the basis of their offense — ranking No.1 for rushing yards (401) and rushing yards per game (200.5), No. 2 for rush touchdowns (4), and No. 3 in the NFL for most rush play percentage (54.68%).
Let’s check in on the NFL’s best two-man backfield as they enter a Thursday Night battle against the Steelers.
RB1: Nick Chubb
Chubb is arguably the best pound-for-pound running back in the league. He leads all backs for most touchdowns on the young season (3), and is ranked No. 2 for yards carried (228) and yards per game (114).
Contract and Salary Overview
Total value: $36.6 million
March 18, 2023: $2.9 million of 2023 salary fully guaranteed
Average annual value: $12.2 million
Guaranteed at signing: $17.13 million
Total guaranteed money: $20 million
Free agency: 2025 (potential out after 2023)
RB2: Kareem Hunt
Remember when Hunt led the NFL in rush yards with the Chiefs in 2017? Put that same guy in a Browns uniform as the second option and consider his production like house money. He has more finesse and is a better pass-catcher. On the flip side, Hunt has an unfortunate history off the field, including assault charges in 2018.
In 2021, the Browns reportedly gave Hunt incentives to “stay out of trouble” and “perform well.”
Contract and Salary Overview
Total value: $12 million
2022 Per Game Active Bonus: $200,000 ($3.4M)
Average annual value: $6 million
Guaranteed at signing: $5.51 million
Total guaranteed money: $5.51 million
Free agency: 2023 UFA
Hunt sought a trade before the season. He saw Chubb, Watson, Denzel Ward, Joel Bitonio, David Njoku, and Wyatt Teller sign deals and wanted to get his own. After all, he’s 27 and feels he should be a team’s primary back — and the feeling is likely mutual among teams needing a dependable back.
This is the type of thing that’ll eventually derail Cleveland’s versatile backfield. So enjoy it while you can.
Week 3 TNF: Steelers at Browns (-4.5)
All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.
- Chubb O/U: 82.5 yards (-114)
- Chubb Anytime TD: (-115)
- Hunt O/U: 42.5 yards (-114)
- Hunt Anytime TD: (+170)
- First TD Scorer: Chubb (+500) | Hunt (+750)
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