Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb and former Brown (and Baltimore Raven) Jamal Lewis have a lot more in common than just their number. With Lewis being the last big-time running back to don the No. 31 for the Browns, it may not be a coincidence that the rookie decided to follow in his footsteps by choosing the same number.
Not only will the two share the same number in Cleveland, but it seems as though Chubb shares the same playing style as well. Whether it be through summer workouts or the first weekend of training camp, Chubb’s teammates have already taken notice of his old-school style and vibe. The way he runs the ball, the type of helmet he uses, or just his overall style, the rookie seems like much more of an old-school running back than one in this day and age.
“The way he carries himself, the way he dresses in practice. It drives me crazy,” Duke Johnson said of his new teammate, according to cleveland.com’s Dan Labbe. “His helmet, his face mask, he doesn’t really wear gloves all the time,” Johnson said. “He’s in the wrong generation.”
The generation that he belongs in is Lewis’, probably. He’s the new player in the Browns’ backfield, but outside of being the new guy, Chubb doesn’t do anything to stand out. He just likes to play football.
“I am who I am,” he said. “I really don’t wear chains or anything flashy. I put my pads on and my gear and whatever I need and just go to work.”
While he’ll have to split time in the backfield with Carlos Hyde and even Duke Johnson, Chubb seems to be doing enough to stand out early on. Johnson already commented on the rookie’s style, now his other back-mate, Hyde has had some praise for the 22-year-old as well.
“Nick is a beast,” Hyde said. “Definitely brings a lot to the game that will get us some wins this season. Just, overall, a good player.”
“I don’t really feel like he’s a rookie,” he said, per Associated Press’ Ashley Bastock. “Usually, rookies come in and be all kind of lost, just trying to feel their way out. I think Nick understands what’s going on. He understands what being a pro is, and he’s definitely been on top of the playbook, been on top of his game, so he’s been doing a pretty good job.”
Not only have his peers noticed how talented he is, but Chubb’s head coach has already taken notice as well.
“I think there’s a lot to him, more so than what people think,” Hue Jackson said. “He just looks like the guy that comes downhill, and here we go. But he has some versatility to him as well. There are some instincts, real runners’ instincts that I see. I think he’s a really talented runner.”
Not only are Chubb and Lewis both 5-foot-11, but there is just a 13-pound difference between the two, both suffered significant injuries to their left knee,1
Add in that they are both products of the SEC, and the comparisons really are interesting to think about between the former outstanding running back in the NFL and the rookie. If Chubb can come close to matching Lewis’ career numbers during his career, it would be one heckuva career, especially because he was selected in the second round. During his nine-year career, Lewis had 2,542 carries for 10,607 yards and 58 touchdowns. Add in his 221 receptions (298 targets) for 1,879 yards and four touchdowns and that’s a really, really solid career. He was also named a first-team All-Pro in 2003, his fourth year in the NFL and two years after injuring his knee.
Worst case scenario, Chubb gives the Browns some depth at running back while being a player offensive coordinator Todd Haley can count on to allow Hyde and Johnson to get some rest. Best case scenario, he turns into something special and takes carries away from the other two running backs because he’s impressed his coaches so much during his rookie season. If Chubb can turn into a valuable running back, he could be a second-round steal for Cleveland. If he can be Lewis’ clone, he can be a player that the Browns’ offense can lean on for years to come.
The style of play, the size, and the knee injuries are all similar. Hopefully, for the Browns, their two NFL careers are as well.