If it’s true that star athletes want nothing but the spotlight, the Browns’ backfield shouldn’t work — and yet, Chubb and Hunt are clicking. Part of this has to do with their friendship, which has blossomed since Hunt joined the locker room in 2019. Instead of battling for attention and carries, the two are supporting each other (read more on that here), and their pairing is quite productive.
Hunt and Chubb rank first and third in the NFL in rushing yards over expectation (RYOE) among those with 10-plus carries, per Next Gen Stats, with Hunt’s +72 RYOE edging out San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert (+71), and Chubb (+64) sitting just behind them. The combined efforts of Chubb and Hunt have the Browns atop the league in RYOE per attempt at +2.37 (compare this to Derrick Henry’s league-leading mark of +1.05 last year).
To the surprise of no one, Chubb and Hunt are succeeding by ripping off big runs. Chubb owns eight runs of 10-plus yards, the most in the NFL, and Hunt is tied for second among running backs with six. They’re also thriving outside the tackles (where Hunt is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, third-best among those with 10-plus carries; Chubb ranks ninth at 5.3 yards per carry). And they’re running behind a blocking unit that ranks 25th in expected yards per carry (3.83).
Cleveland has spread the carries almost evenly between the two in their first couple of outings, though we didn’t see a full game’s worth of how they might do so until Week 2. In that 35-30 win over the Bengals, Chubb occupied a lead-back role with 22 carries, while a fresh Hunt served as the closer, gaining 76 of his 86 yards in the final quarter, capped by a 10-yard run to set up his 1-yard score.
Again, this seems like it shouldn’t work. But the Browns are proving conventional wisdom incorrect, at least through two weeks. The key to keeping this pair hot is operating with a lead and on schedule — and that, in turn, is easier to do with two stellar backs in the backfield.