Browns welcome back Chubb in showdown vs. Texans
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield served as the most high-profile addition to practice this week, but he wasn’t alone in providing the team a boost by simply being present.
The Browns (5-3) returned from their open week re-energized and by a roster largely intact. When Cleveland hosts the Houston Texans (2-6) on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, it will do so with many of their key cogs back in the fold offensively.
Not only did Mayfield return from the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Browns also welcomed back running back Nick Chubb (knee) and guard Wyatt Teller (calf). Coming out of the bye, the timing is ideal.
“It felt good to be back out there with most everybody, just to see those guys back,” Mayfield said. “It’s been a little bit longer for Nick and Wyatt — it’s been a few weeks. It’s been good to have those guys back so we’ll see as the week goes on. I know they’re happy to be back as well.”
Chubb produced 335 rushing yards and four touchdowns prior to his departure in the second quarter of Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys. He was the bell cow of a rushing attack that ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,200 yards and is fourth at 5.0 yards per rushing attempt.
Kareem Hunt (529 yards, three touchdowns) has produced with Chubb sidelined, but the Browns are far more potent with both backs available and serving as complements to Mayfield.
“We’ll talk to Nick, we’ll talk to the trainers and we’ll talk to the doctors and see once we get through the week,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Chubb. “Really get to Friday and then put that plan together. But definitely, we’ll talk to Nick and see what he’s comfortable with.”
For the Texans, dealing with Chubb and Hunt only exacerbates their concerns defensively.
Houston ranks last in the league in rushing defense, allowing 159.5 yards per game. They’re next to last in yards allowed (1,276 yards) and yards per carry (5.1). Only five teams have surrendered more than the Texans’ 11 rushing touchdowns.
Their season-long woes stopping the run offers a daunting dovetail as Chubb returns to action.
“Obviously they have a lot of success running the ball,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. “Those guys are very good backs. The offensive line does a good job blocking for them. They have Baker, who obviously can throw the ball and play-action off of what they do in the running game. They’re very effective. That’s up to us up front, first and foremost, as the front line of defense to do our job to set the edges, build the wall in the middle and the backers to come up and make tackles. Everybody doing their job to do what we can to be successful on Sunday.”
The Texans will likely be without their leading rusher David Johnson following his concussion in their 27-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. Duke Johnson ably filled in, and the Texans feel confident that he can manage the workload should he be required to do so again.
“I think Sunday was a great example of what Duke brings to the table,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “He went in there after David got hurt, and he took, I guess, just about every snap. I think maybe he was out for two plays after that. He took every snap, and that was blocking, that was running and that was pass receiving.
“He’s a productive runner. He’s got great vision. He’s got quick feet and he can make people miss. So, that’s what we expect from him going forward.”
Starting guard Senio Kelemete (concussion), LB Dylan Cole (back) and DE Charles Omenihu (hamstring) also sat out Wednesday’s practice for Houston.
–Field Level Media