The Browns aren’t the only ones adjusting to a short week around here.
We’re also making adjustments, and that’s why you’re seeing this week’s edition of the Browns Mailbag on a Wednesday.
With 196 yards from scrimmage from the combo of RB Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt this past Sunday, can we compare them yet to RBs Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack of the 80s? If they're willing to block for each other, and an O-Line that seems to be very capable at run blocking, the "sky's the limit" with these two. What are your thoughts? -- Phil H., St. Clairsville
Let’s hold our collective horses comparing this tandem to Mack and Byner. That was a special tandem in Browns history, and Chubb and Hunt have played just one game together. It was a very good game, yes, but let’s respect the history for a second.
That said, it’s hard not to be encouraged by what Hunt and Chubb displayed against the Bills. Chubb took the bulk of the carries and picked up almost all of his 116 yards when Hunt was also on the field. Hunt looked good on the four carries he got and was a true weapon as a pass-catcher, hauling in seven receptions for 44 yards -- including a must-have 9-yarder on third-and-7 on Cleveland’s game-winning drive. The timing couldn’t be better for a Browns offense that simply hasn’t gotten going to its full potential outside of the Week 4 romp in Baltimore.
“I think anytime you can get guys who can do things with the ball in their hands and they can also play off of other people, that definitely impacts decisions, alignments and assignments,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said. “The way you get the ball to those guys changes. When you have more than a couple of options, it is always, from that position in particular, very good.”
Sunday’s performance begs a very important question, though. If that’s what this tandem looked like in its debut -- against a solid, disciplined Buffalo defense, at that -- what can be expected as the rest of the season progresses?
First, the success of the plays where both were on the field together could dictate the Browns deploying those looks more often. On Sunday, they shared the field for 28 of a possible 70 snaps. That’s a lot compared to the NFL average of teams using multiple running backs, but there’s certainly room for more starting Thursday against the Steelers. There's also room to grow on the goal line, where the Browns struggled from inside the 5-yard line on multiple occasions Sunday.
“I feel like there is a lot more to go,” Hunt said Tuesday. “We have to build off that, get our bodies together and get ready to go back out there and compete hard again on Thursday night.”
The important thing to remember, too, is that even though Chubb did most of the running and Hunt did most of the pass-catching, both are more than capable of doing the opposite. Hunt, of course, ran for 2,151 yards in his first 26 NFL games while Chubb has shown major improvements as a pass-catcher and has already surpassed his receiving totals from last season.
A wry smile crossed Kitchens’ face Tuesday when he was asked if the Browns had the ability to add to the Hunt-Chubb package during the short week of prep for the Steelers.
“We will probably do the same plays we did last week,” Kitchens said, laughing.
If the same results follow suit, the Browns could be in good position to collect their second straight win.
The Browns won last week after a missed field goal by the Bills in the last minute. Flip through photos of the post game celebration.
With the lack of a true fullback on the team, why can't we just put Larry Ogunjobi or Sheldon Richardson at FB for our goal-line offense? It seems like a no-brainer to put an athletic, strong DT to block for Chubb. They only need to learn maybe three or four plays before they can be utilized. Thanks and GOOO Browns! -- Adam S., Westlake
This might seem like a crazy question, but Hunt was asked about Richardson joining the backfield Tuesday. It was all in good fun, of course, because there’s no indication the Browns are looking to tap into their defensive line for help some blocking help on offense.
“He could come get in the T-bone,” Hunt said. “We will get him in that three-point (stance) and he could give us about 5 (yards).”
All jokes aside, the Browns might not have a true fullback on the roster, but they’ve deployed a tight end out of the backfield on plenty of occasions to serve as an extra blocker. Also, Hunt proved to be one heck of a lead blocker himself on a number of Chubb’s carries against the Bills. Chubb could certainly do the same on carries that go Hunt’s way.
“As a running back, you have to be able to block,” Hunt said. “That is a big thing. They really like running backs that can block in the NFL. The thing about it is it is just the game. I want to go hit somebody so I just go hit somebody.”
After two games, it’s safe to say Teller has been a solid addition to an offensive line Cleveland appears poised to ride the rest of the way. I asked C JC Tretter about Teller earlier in the day, and he’s liked what he’s seen.
“It’s been good. I was just telling Joel (Bitonio), the more you can play with a guy, the easier it gets,” Tretter said. “Wyatt wasn’t here during OTAs and came here late during training camp, so you don’t get all of those reps. Now, the more reps you can get throughout the season -- we were rotating guys in so you still got to work with him -- but now you get to work with him every day. I think the meeting room time is so crucial to that, where you can sit with him, talk through calls, talk through what your expectations are, where he’s going to be.
“He’s one of the guys that just wants to work hard and always do the right thing. He’s been a great guy to work with.”