Stump Mitchell believes everyone in the Browns' running back room has yet to play their best season.
Perhaps that's not a surprise to hear that from a coach, particularly one like Mitchell, who's entering his fourth season as the Browns' running backs coach and has always exuded confidence in Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson and whoever else is in his room.
But Mitchell, who's coached running backs for over two decades, sees several ways each of the guys in his room can improve their game this season — and yes, that includes both Chubb and Hunt.
"We have not seen the best of Nick Chubb," Mitchell said Monday. "Nick's got to be a little more patient. He has to attack defenders. He has to make the field longer."
Any further improvements in Chubb's game would be remarkable considering he's topped 1,000 rushing yards the last three seasons and has consistently been one of the league's leading rushers since he entered league.
So what about Hunt? What can he do better?
Mitchell's answer is identical.
"I have to teach him to be a little more patient," he said. "He is, by far, better than a 4.9-yards per carry back.
"I don't think any of the running back coaches (who've coached) Kareem, including me, has gotten the most out of him. He's a physical, talented guy, but I have to get him to play within our system. You all have not seen the best of Kareem, by no stretch of the imagination."
By being "patient," Mitchell is talking about the backs holding their ground behind the line of scrimmage just a half-second or so longer before hitting the open gap. That's how the bulk of the run plays work in the Browns' wide-zone blocking system, which moves the offensive linemen horizontally to push defenders and open spaces for the runner.
Chubb and Hunt have both thrived in that system so far. Chubb ranks fourth in the NFL behind Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook with 2,326 combined rushing yards the last two seasons. Hunt, meanwhile, has averaged 4.4 yards per carry the last two years and brings additional value as a pass catcher. He has 763 receiving yards in 32 games since he joined the Browns in 2019.
Speaking of receiving, Mitchell also highlighted that as an area he expects to see more production from Chubb this year.
"He's catching the ball, starting from this spring, and running routes a heck of a lot better than he did in the past," Mitchell said. "We'll see more from him."
The Browns have boasted a top 5 run game in the league in each of the last two seasons, and with the addition of rookie fifth-rounder Jerome Ford, who had 102 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the first preseason game Friday in Jacksonville, the Browns have an even stronger argument toward possessing the best run game in the league.
Being the best, though, is still not good enough for Mitchell.
"I think Stump, as you know, challenges our guys and wants them to be their best," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Stump is going to give every player something they can work on each year and push them. It does not matter if you are a sixth-year pro or a rookie, Stump is going to push you."
He certainly is right now with all of the Browns running backs.
Here's what else you might've missed from Day 13 in Berea:
Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout camp