When the Browns lost Nick Chubb to the season-ending knee injury in Week 2, it raised questions about how the run game would bounce back this season.
Yet, over the last eight weeks, the Browns have been able to recreate their run game using RB Kareem Hunt, Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. in the backfield. They each bring a variation to their skillset, which allows the three to complement one another.
"I think we complement each other pretty good," Hunt said.
Ford first stepped into the starting role for Week 3 as Hunt adjusted back and returned to game shape. They struggled to find success in the run game against the Titans in Week 3, when Pierre Strong Jr. rushed for a high of 27 yards and finished the game with 78 rushing yards. In Week 4 against Baltimore, the Browns didn't break 100 rushing yards once again, when they finished the game with 93 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Yet, their success in the run game began to change following their bye week. They have rushed for over 100 yards in their last four games.
The Browns took off for 160 rushing yards against the 49ers in Week 6 and one touchdown by Hunt. Week 7 the run game excelled with three rushing touchdowns, two from Hunt and one from Ford, as well as a 69-yard run by Ford. Week 8, Hunt scored yet again on a carry, and the Browns rushed for 155 yards on 40 carries. Then in Week 9, the Browns rushed for 113 yards and one touchdown by Hunt.
Hunt believes the uptick in their run game since the bye week is due to them being patient as a unit and finding their opportunities, as well as the health of their unit. Between Ford, Hunt and Strong, they have dealt with some injuries throughout the season.
Their teammates are taking notice of their progress as a unit.
"I think (Jerome) Ford, Reem (Kareem Hunt), Pierre (Strong) have done a good job in finding kind of their niche coming in and running," G Joel Bitonio said. "Guys are starting to understand where we want to hit the ball, where we want to find the rush lanes, and we're trying to keep those guys fresh."
The Browns are fifth in the league in total rushing yards with 1,153 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 144.1 yards per game. They have nine total rushing touchdowns this season. They also have 63 rushing first downs, which is seventh in the league.
OC Alex Van Pelt said they continue to use their backs by committee, where each will get their touches in a game.
HC Kevin Stefanksi believes that their skillsets all complement one another. So does Van Pelt, as he said recently that Strong brings speed and vision to the run game. Ford has the ability to use his feet where he can cut quickly and make a move, while Hunt runs with a physicality.
Check out photos of the team working to prepare for the Baltimore Ravens
And they are still learning how they all fit into the fold. They can use their backs in different situations throughout a game. Hunt is able to work inside, while both Ford and Strong can get out on the edge.
"I would describe my game as a bruiser back, and can get short yards and make big plays," Hunt said. "I would describe them as fast, shifty guys that can hit the home run ball."
Each has played an integral role this season in the development of their run game and the success in recent weeks. Ford leads the team with 425 rushing yards this season on 107 carries and has two rushing touchdowns. Hunt has rushed for 196 yards on 60 carries for five touchdowns, while Strong has 34 carries for 152 yards and one touchdown.
"Kareem (Hunt), just a grinder, man," Van Pelt said. "He's a hard runner. He makes good cuts, gets positive yards. Jerome (Ford), his ability to catch a ball out of the backfield, his ability to make guys miss, has that speed, the long speed as well. Then you get Pierre (Strong Jr.) into the mix and he's a true speed guy. Like he can get to the corner and chew up yards quickly. So, it's a good compliment of backs, and they do complement each other."