Not only did the Cleveland Browns suffer their first defeat of the season Monday night, but they also lost the heart and soul of their offense. During the second quarter of a 26-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Nick Chubb was carted off the field after suffering a gruesome injury on a hit from Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed after the game that Chubb suffered a “significant knee injury” and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
ESPN’s broadcast team initially elected not to show the replay, but one could hear the gasps from the crowd at Acrisure Stadium when it was shown on the jumbotron. The crowd thenby cheering for him and acknowledging him as he was carted off to the locker room.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Chubb had 64 yards on 10 carries prior to getting injured. He had 106 yards on the ground in the Browns’ Week 1 win over the Bengals.
Jerome Ford replaced Chubb as the Browns’ starting running back. A fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Ford had eight carries as a rookie and 15 carries in Cleveland’s 24-3 win over the Bengals. He played admirably in place of Chubb on Monday night, rushing for 106 yards on 16 carries that included a 69-yard run that set up Cleveland’s final score.
Regardless, the loss of Chubb is significant for the Browns, who went into Monday night with legitimate playoff hopes. Now, the Browns will have to keep those hopes alive without one of the NFL’s best running backs and overall players.
As for who they should possibly bring in to help cushion the blow of likely losing Chubb, here are some options.
This will be among the popular matches, and for good reason. Hunt is still available on the free agent market and, given that he’s played for the Browns for the previous four seasons, he has immense knowledge of the playbook and could be a plug-and-play addition to the backfield. In 17 games played last season, the 28-year-old rushed for 468 yards and three touchdowns while catching 35 passes for 210 yards and another score. If Cleveland wants to roll with Ford as its primary back, Hunt would be a nice secondary option that and can take on a bigger workload if needed.
Fournette is in a similar situation to Hunt. The veteran went unsigned this offseason and is currently looking for the right opportunity to arise, which could possibly be with the Browns post-Chubb. The 28-year-old can work both in between the tackles and as a pass catcher, which would complement Ford well. With the Buccaneers last season, Fournette totaled 1,191 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. That included 73 receptions for 523 yards.
Cam Akers’ relationship with the Rams has seemingly deteriorated, with the back being a healthy inactive last week. Now, reports are that L.A. isas they roll forward with Kyren Williams as their primary ballcarrier. With a need for some help in the backfield, the Browns naturally make sense post-Chubb. The former second round pick rushed for 786 yards (4.2 yards per carry) in 2022 with seven touchdowns. In the Week 1 opener against Seattle, he rushed for just 29 yards on 22 attempts, so he might be best looked at as a complementary piece to Ford as he ascends to replace Chubb.
If they want a straight-up Chubb replacement, you can’t get much better than Jonathan Taylor. The Colts back is currently on injured reserve, but can still be traded. Of course, his health would be the first thing Cleveland would have to verify before swinging such a deal, but, when healthy, Taylor is among the league’s best running backs. Leading up to the season, the Colts did grant Taylor’s camp permission to seek a trade, but nothing came to fruition. As he gets closer to being eligible to return off IR, it will be interesting to see if those trade talks heat up. Getting a player of Taylor’s caliber in the fold would main Cleveland’s running game as one of the most feared in the league and would probably be a welcome development for the veteran as well.