Photo via Jason Miller/Getty Images
For any NFL team, small sample sizes are mysterious, intriguing and even hilarious through the first handful of games in a season. What is an overreaction? What is to be expected? What is a surprise? What is an anomaly? What could be the norm?
Sure, only two 2020 games have been completed through the early going for the Cleveland Browns, but head coach Kevin Stefanski has something brewing with the running game. Something that could be lethal as the season progresses. Something that could, perhaps, even be magical.
The Browns’ running game, of course, does not consist of one premier back, but two, as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have already slammed through coverages and helped ease the workload off quarterback Baker Mayfield.
How good has the duo been, though, and why should this garner surprise of the week consideration?
Let’s first look at their numbers through the first two games of the campaign. Chubb has amassed 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns through 32 rushing attempts. He has averaged 92.0 rushing yards per game and has averaged 16.0 attempts. Hunt, meanwhile, has rushed for one touchdown on 158 yards and 23 attempts. He has averaged 79.0 rushing yards a game on 11.5 attempts.
Together, the pair has given Cleveland a short-term strength through the early part of the season and, potentially, a long-term asset as the grind of the season progresses into winter.
Should Chubb and Hunt continue the production they are putting together, what would they end up with? Should small sample size success turn into long-term consistency, what would the end product be?
Should Chubb and Hunt play the entire season and continue to collect the workload they have mustered per game, both would rush for 1,472 and 1,264 yards this season, respectively. Chubb and Hunt would additionally combine for 440 rushing attempts (Chubb with 256 and Hunt with 184). Finally, the pair would pound into the endzone 24 times (16 for Chubb and 8 for Hunt).
The numbers are eye-popping, for sure. A unanimous take, more than likely.
Let’s take it a step further. Instead of looking at it from a pure numbers’ perspective, let’s look at it from a historical one.
The last time the Browns had two rushers gain over 1,000 yards on the ground was 1985, when Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner rushed for 1,104 and 1,002 yards, respectively. If taking relocation into account (anyone remember “The Move”?), it would be the first season where the team had two rushers compile over 1,000 yards (the inaugural season for the current Browns’ franchise was 1999). If Chubb and Hunt rush for over 1,000 yards this season, it would be the eighth time in NFL history where two teammates would rush for over 1,000 yards.
It has to be said, of course, that many variables have to go a certain way for Chubb and Hunt to sniff the history books. Stefanski has to continue to utilize them heavily on practically every drive. Health must also be their friend. What if Mayfield and his receiving core clicks and they take away snaps from the pair?
Small sample sizes can be hilarious, but intriguing. Regardless of the projections or the history ramifications, the Browns have something good going for them in the backfield. Should Chubb and Hunt continue their production at an efficient level perhaps the “Dawg Pound” has something to cheer for.