Browns tapping into Nick Chubb’s previously untapped potential as a pass-catcher

It’s not that Nick Chubb couldn’t catch. It’s that no one ever asked him to do it.

Just check his NFL.com draft profile. The last listed weakness is “Wasn’t used often on passing downs at Georgia.”

Sounds more like an indictment of opportunity than ability. 

“(Catching the ball is) something I never did, but I could always do it,” Chubb said earlier this week. “Georgia had so many other great running backs that we just let them (catch the ball) because they could. Now that I have an opportunity to show that I can catch the ball, I’m gonna take full advantage of it.”

Chubb’s done just that since Freddie Kitchens started calling plays in Week 9. During that three-game span, Chubb’s caught all seven passes thrown to him for 82 yards and two touchdowns, including the pass he pinned against a defender’s helmet Sunday against the Bengals. 

Chubb’s not a finished pass-catching product but he’s committed to perfecting his new craft. He runs routes and catches passes each day after practice, something his fellow running back, Duke Johnson, said is the only way to improve. Johnson’s the Browns’ resident out-of-the-backfield receiver, but he’s been open to give his rookie teammate any pointers. The only way Chubb can improve is with repetition, and with Chubb’s postgame sessions after each practice, he’s on the right path. 

“He’s gonna get there one way or another,” Johnson said. 

Johnson thinks Chubb was even surprised by the highlight-reel touchdown grab against the Bengals. And Johnson was right; Chubb called the catch a “blackout moment.” He couldn’t comprehend what he’d just done. Turns out, he’s still discovering the full range of his talents. 

“I had no idea I was capable of doing those things,” Chubb said. 

Kitchens had at least an inkling. He singled out Chubb’s pass-catching talents in minicamp, and Chubb’s fleshed them out over the past few weeks. The secret is out: Chubb can catch. And anyone who says differently probably hasn’t had the chance to watch Chubb do it. 

“I do not know who started that rumor,” Kitchens said of Chubb having bad hands. “Nick has good hands. I do not have a problem with throwing Nick the ball.”

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