Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines Nick Chubb’s preseason debut in Cleveland and illustrates why it’s important to separate the back from the blocking.
It’s easy to think Nick Chubb looked bad in his preseason debut against the Giants. At first blush, it appeared he had several issues depending on the run:
- Colliding with his own blockers.
- Lacking patience.
- Lacking appropriate footwork.
- Missing open areas to bounce or cut back.
However, much of this analysis is rooted in a misunderstanding of several things:
- The play design.
- How a running back is supposed to approach the play design.
- What choices the running back does (and doesn’t have) with the play design.
- What the running back is supposed to read and react as the play unfolds.
- The footwork associated with the play design and the way the play is unfolding.
When examining Chubb’s debut, the concerns about Chubb’s play is mostly overreaction due to a misunderstanding of what was happening in front of him. There were two plays where Chubb could have approached the situation unfolding in front him a little better than he did, but these plays weren’t representative of his game and even the best NFL runners have plays throughout the season where they make bad decisions or reads.
What I saw was a back who didn’t have much room to run and mostly made sound decisions to take what he could. Hopefully, the combination of Tyrod Taylor’s legs and the starting offensive line will create consistent creases for the Browns runners. Otherwise, this could be a situation like 2016 Todd Gurley or Le’Veon Bell’s rookie year where the popular narrative faults the runner but didn’t look close enough at what happened in front of them.
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