Browns' Chubb hasn't played in preseason since 2019, and that's just fine

Aug. 23—Nick Chubb hasn't taken a snap in a preseason game since before Joe Biden took office as President of the United States. Since before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. Since before Freddie Kitchens stood on the sideline for his first regular-season game as Browns head coach on Sept. 8, 2019.

In other words, don't fret if Chubb doesn't touch the ball Aug. 26 when the Browns close out their preseason at 1 p.m. in Kansas City in a game with the Chiefs. Coach Kevin Stefanski said most of the starters will play 20-25 snaps and get the rest of the day off. Chubb probably will watch from the sideline, just as he has every preseason contest since the second practice game of 2019 in his second season in the league.

"We'll see," Stefanski said when asked about Chubb playing against the Chiefs. "I try to make those decisions based individually on each player. As you can imagine, Nick's doing everything in his power to get ready for September 10."

The Browns open the 2023 season on Sept. 10 in a game with the Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Chubb, a second-round pick from Georgia in 2018, just missed breaking the 1,000-yard rushing barrier as a rookie when he rushed for 996 yards. Since then, he galloped 1,494 yards in 2019, 1,067 yards (in just 12 games) in 2020, 1,259 yards in 2021 and a career-best 1,525 yards last season. So, no, he doesn't need to touch the ball in a game that doesn't matter.

#Browns receivers work on a ball possession drill Wednesday in Berea. Practice was moved inside the fieldhouse because of threatening weather.

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) August 23, 2023

The only reason to play Chubb at all would be to get him some game time with Deshaun Watson. Chubb said that's fine with him if that's what Stefanski chooses. But he also said the chemistry with Watson is coming along well. That's because Chubb practices full throttle, which is why Stefanski is content to save his star running back's legs for the regular season.

"I think (the timing) is coming along good," Chubb said. "We got a head start last year when Deshaun got in late in the season. So I think this year we'll just kind of build off that and I think it's going along very well."

Chubb rushed for 12 touchdowns in the first 11 games of 2022 when Jacoby Brissett was the quarterback. He did not score on the ground when Watson took over for the final six games.

Chubb isn't concerned about his own stats and he isn't concerned about the offense bogging down as it did when Watson replaced Brissett. The offense has undergone a makeover with Elijah Moore and rookie Cedric Tillman plus tight end Jordan Akins added to the receiving corps.

"I think there's that potential to be one of the best (offenses) in the NFL," Chubb said. "It depends on us executing every day and alignment, assignment, playing fast, but being smart.

"With Deshaun, I want Deshaun to be who he is, who I've known to be since high school. Growing up in Georgia together, I've always heard about him. He's always been a great player and just for him to get back to who he is."

Watson passed for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns with the Texans in 2020.

Chubb might not need touches against the Chiefs, but there are unanswered questions at running back behind him because Jerome Ford is still out with a hamstring injury. Stefanski said Jordan Wilkins, signed by the Browns on Aug. 12, will play against the Chiefs. Wilkins played five seasons with the Colts and totaled 1,009 rushing yards.

"With those players that you add kind of midstream, you have to ramp them up mentally and he's doing that," Stefanski said. "He's a pro. He's played in some systems that I think he can translate what we're doing offensively.

"We'll continue to work him in there. We'll see how much he plays in that (Kansas City) game, but he's somebody that is earning our trust just because he knows what to do."

Demetric Felton is on the bubble trying to earn a job as a backup running back/return specialist. John Kelly is also in the mix for a backup job.

Browns at Chiefs

When: 1 p.m., Aug. 26

Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Records: Browns 1-1-1, Chiefs 1-1

TV: WEWS; Radio: WKRK-FM 92.3, WNCX-FM 98.5, WKNR-AM 850