'Old School' nickname sticks with quickly improving Nick Chubb

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BEREA, Ohio -- It was back in training camp when Duke Johnson Jr. came up with a nickname for Cleveland Browns rookie running back Nick Chubb: Old School.

The name has stuck, Johnson said Thursday. And the reason for it?

“Just his demeanor,” the running back said. “The way he goes about football. The way he dresses. The way he barely talks. Just his whole demeanor.”

In the modern era, anyone who shows up, does his job, does it well and then leaves is old school. Chubb is quiet, unassuming and loath to talk about himself.

“It’s just how I am,” he said with a shrug.

The Browns are just fine with that, because when Chubb does his work, he has been tremendously effective. That it took a little longer than the Browns would have liked is probably something the team would like a do-over on.

The Browns understood they had something with Chubb, but former offensive coordinator Todd Haley liked Carlos Hyde. So Hyde got the bulk of the early-season carries.

Through six games, Chubb had a total of 16 rushes. He averaged 10.8 yards on those carries and had two touchdowns longer than 40 yards.

The Browns saw that and decided enough was enough. On Oct. 19, the Browns traded Hyde to Jacksonville and made Chubb their back.

In the five games since the trade, Chubb has played very well, and in the three games since Gregg Williams took over as interim coach and Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator, Chubb has been outstanding.

Since the trade, Chubb has been given the ball at least 18 times in every game, to a high of 28 in Cincinnati. He has gained 490 yards on 106 carries.

In the three games since Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired, Chubb is averaging 142 all-purpose yards. In those games -- against Kansas City, Atlanta and Cincinnati -- Chubb is second in the league in rushing yards, second in carries and eighth in combined yards.

Neither five nor three games is a defining sample size. But for Chubb, it’s enough to show trends that bode well for the future.

“I think playing running back is a little bit like playing quarterback, where they have to continue to see pictures and see what different teams are doing against them and things like that,” Kitchens said last week. “And I think his vision has always been good.

“Sometimes as a running back, fast is not always best. I think that is what he has learned. He has learned how to run the ball in this league. Sometimes you can just outrun guys in college. You can’t outrun them all of the time here in this league. You can once you get into the open field, but you can’t just go through a hole from straight speed.

“You have to make sure that you are setting up blocks and things like that, and that is what he is doing more than anything.”

Chubb’s big plays have been significant. He has three touchdown runs longer than 40 yards, including a team-record run of 92 yards. He also has two receiving touchdowns longer than 10 yards. He has seven runs this season longer than 20 yards, 11 more between 11 and 19 yards.

He ranks fifth in the league averaging 5.43 yards per carry, and according to ESPN Stats & Information, he leads the league in yards per carry after first contact (2.73). He has not fumbled.

Chubb is a stocky 5-foot-11 and 227 pounds, but his size belies his speed. Guys such as Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara and Duke Johnson Jr. are considered fast, but Chubb’s 40-yard time at the combine was better than all three -- Chubb ran a 4.52. Kamara was at 4.56, Johnson 4.54 and Hunt 4.62.

The key to Chubb’s running isn’t speed. It’s his ability to slide to a hole and his vision to find the hole. When he does, he takes advantage and uses the speed to turn 4-yard runs into 14- or 24-yarders.

Chubb’s running isn’t a surprise. He overcame a significant knee injury in college to finish second to Herschel Walker in all-time rushing yardage at Georgia. What has been a great addition has been his receiving. In Cincinnati, he made a highlight-film catch, going up to pin the ball against the helmet of safety Brandon Wilson. As he fell, he was able to bring the ball over Wilson’s head and to his chest for the touchdown.

“He probably doesn’t run the best routes,” Johnson said. “But he can catch the ball. So that’s fundamental football. And he reps it every day after practice. So he’s gonna get better one way or another.”

Chubb has just nine receptions, but in the past three games, he has caught six of seven passes thrown his way. At Georgia, he had nine receptions in his final two seasons combined. Why is it working now? “Because they’re throwing it to me,” Chubb said.

Old school.

Chubb is the first player in Browns history to have a receiving and rushing touchdown in consecutive games. His six rushing touchdowns and 663 rushing yards both rank sixth on the Browns' all-time rookie list.

He would need six more rushing touchdowns to break Trent Richardson’s team record of 11, but he needs to average only 58 yards per game to break Richardson’s rookie rushing record -- and 67.4 per game to top 1,000. He has averaged 98 yards per game since Hyde was traded.

“If you do what you’re supposed to do, it will come to you -- it will happen on its own,” Chubb said. “I don’t count numbers.”