Nick Chubb’s talent has always been enough.
He stands 5-foot-11, 227 pounds, could squat 700 pounds in high school and ran a 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at the NFL Combine. He’s been an athletic anomaly at every level, each carry an exercise in improvisation and force.
That’s changed this year, though. Now when Chubb touches the ball, he’s tasked with dissecting the landscape in front of him in order to best implement his immense talent. He’s learning to adjust.
“In college, I got away with just running the ball. You had certain guys that were really good here and there,” Chubb said. “But here in the NFL, every single guy is capable of destroying the game. Everyone’s good on defense. It’s not just key players. Now I have to actually have to know what’s going on in front of me.”
Chubb displayed his improved patience on his three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Chiefs. Chubb shuffled to his left, froze for a second and exploded into the end zone untouched, bringing the Browns within one score.
“That’s your drive, boy,” Jarvis Landry exclaimed upon congratulating Chubb in the end zone.
It’s hard to argue with Landry. With the touchdown, Chubb capped a 12-play, seven-minute drive on which he touched the ball nine times and accounted for 45 yards. Chubb and the Browns’ offensive line powered through the Chiefs defense, draining possession time away from Patrick Mahomes.
This Sunday against the Falcons, especially considering the Browns defense is so beat up from injuries, Chubb and Co. will probably need to do the same. Commit to the run; take time off the clock; the defense will get tired. That’s the mantra.
Is there any credence to this theory, though? Do elite athletes actually get tired to the point of softening over four quarters?
“Not really as a game goes on,” Chubb said. “But (they do) on a long drive on certain plays. From when I have been in the NFL, those guys do a great job of – even though it is a long game, a four-quarter game – they are up every play, are ready every play. I think that longer drives just take more of a toll on them.”
Chubb’s running style lends itself to longer drives. He claws for every extra grass blade. Baker Mayfield said it’s rare to see any player tackle Chubb on their first try. Before the season, offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens said every move Chubb makes is violent. And now that Chubb’s learning to read defenses, they have no choice but to accept his punishing blows.
Eventually, on the fifth or sixth play of a drive, Chubb’s talent will overwhelm a defense. It already happened twice to the Raiders, and it might happen again against Atlanta’s banged-up front seven. Or it might happen a few weeks from now. Chubb just needs to be patient.
“I think after a while, (the physicality) does wear on (a defense),” Chubb said. “You’ll catch them slipping if you just keep at it.”