Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
One of a series previewing Browns position groups leading up to the start of training camp …
Projected starters: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson.
Analysis: The Browns have a new running backs coach in Freddie Kitchens, a new lead runner in Carlos Hyde, a new, young hopeful in second-round draft pick Nick Chubb, and a new attitude about their running game.
In March, coach Hue Jackson said of $15 million free agent acquisition Hyde, “That guy is a violent runner.”
In June, Kitchens said of No. 35 overall draft pick Chubb of Georgia, “He will take a handoff, and the handoff is violent … everything he does is violent.”
So the running game on the lakefront will be violent.
Which isn’t the running style of Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who was universally heralded as the best player in the 2018 draft. Which is why Browns GM John Dorsey never seriously considered Barkley with the first pick in the draft. Barkley, described by some as a 235-pound third-down back, was taken second by the New York Giants.
"With Carlos, I have always liked what he does. I think he is built to play the Cleveland Browns' style of running game,” Dorsey said.
Hyde, 6-0 and 235 pounds, was a second-round pick of the 49ers in 2014 out of Ohio State. He had a 4.2-yard average in four seasons in San Francisco with a high of 988 yards in 2016.
Chubb is 5-11 and 227. He succeeded Todd Gurley at Georgia and made Bulldogs fans forget Gurley with a breakout 1,547-yard season as a freshman. In his second year, Chubb blew out every ligament in his left knee but the ACL. He responded with seasons of 1,130 and 1,335 yards and said at the draft that he felt fully recovered only in his last season.
Taken No. 35 overall, Chubb is the highest running back ever drafted by Dorsey and top lieutenants Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith. Highsmith, a “violent” runner himself at the University of Miami and then with the Houston Oilers, likened Chubb to former Raven Jamal Lewis.
Offsetting the “violent” clones Hyde and Chubb is, of course, Duke Johnson. The third-down back isn’t a new addition, but he signed a new, three-year contract for $15.6 million – half of which is guaranteed.
Johnson has averaged 63 receptions a year in his three seasons with the Browns.
“Luckily, Duke can do some things that the other two cannot do,” Kitchens said. “He can probably do those things more efficient with more success. All three of those guys can run our running game. Duke can do a few more things in the passing game.
“Ultimately, we feel like that is a position of strength. Coach [Bill] Parcells taught me a long time ago, do not turn a position of strength into a weakness. You would like to keep it a strength, and we are fortunate that is where we are.”
Strengths: A pair of “violent” backs who fit in with the running style required in the AFC North in the winter months. An excellent third-down pass catcher in Johnson.
1. How will coordinator Todd Haley divide play time between facsimile backs Hyde and Chubb?
2. Will the Browns finally, really commit to the running game?