The Browns ended their week of practice Friday with news that Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb will not be available Sunday against the Cardinals due to a calf injury.
Luckily, they have another Pro Bowl running back in their room who's capable of handling a full workload.
Kareem Hunt, who leads all Browns players with five touchdowns, is set to take the role of lead running back as Cleveland looks to hand Arizona its first loss of the season. Hunt, a five-year veteran, said Friday he'll miss his teammate and close friend but has full confidence he'll be able to keep the Browns' rushing attack strong — it currently leads the league in nearly every major rushing category.
"You never want to see a guy like Nick go down," Hunt said. "What he means to this team is crazy. We've got a lot of good backs in this RB room, so I feel like we should be able to hold it down until he gets back."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Arizona Cardinals
Coach Kevin Stefanski said Chubb suffered his injury near the end of the Browns' Week 5 game in Los Angeles and couldn't offer any timeline beyond Sunday for when Chubb could return.
He did, however, express faith in Hunt to ensure there's no drop-off in rushing totals. He's contributed 295 of the Browns' 938 rushing yards and has averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which is seventh in the league (minimum 6.25 rushes per game).
"Anytime you're without a player of Nick's caliber, guys have to step up," Stefanski said. "It's never one person who replaces Nick Chubb. Obviously, we feel really strong about Kareem and what he is capable of, but guys have to step up."
Hunt is confident he'll be able to carry the load despite battling injuries himself. He practiced for the first time this week Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday with wrist and knee injuries. He's listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
"I felt pretty good," Hunt said, "so we're going to see how it goes Sunday and make it happen. I'm feeling good enough."
In addition to Hunt, the Browns likely will lean more on three-year veteran D'Ernest Johnson and sixth-round rookie Demetric Felton.
All three backs will be tasked to make plays against a Cardinals defense that has struggled to contain the run but has still held opponents off the scoreboard. Arizona ranks 28th in the league against the run but is sixth in points allowed and 12th in total defense. J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones highlight a few of the big men the Cardinals have up front, though Jones' status for Sunday is up in the air due to a positive COVID-19 test. He's second in the NFL with five sacks, all of which were recorded in Week 1.
"They've got a bunch of guys who can make plays over there," Hunt said. "We're going to be looking for a challenge."