Michael Lombardi: Nick Chubb's injury and the impact on the Cleveland Browns

Who will replace Nick Chubb?

Every successful NFL team has a clear identity.  Normally, the identity originates from the head coach, who understands the personnel around him and then crafts the scheme that fits perfectly.  It’s what we refer to as “scouting inside out.” 

Once the talent improves, the scheme becomes harder and harder to defend as the players develop their skill set.  Before long, the fans aren’t discussing or noticing the identity, they only observe the great player shining brightly.  But what happens when the talented player gets hurt?  Identities cannot be changed. New players must come in and shine—even though the scheme looks less effective than before—which is why talented players get paid all the money.    

Last night, the Browns suffered an injury to the one player they could least afford —running back Nick Chubb, their best player who gives them their offensive identity.  Forget all the money they paid quarterback Deshaun Watson; Chubb was their offense and their real identity. 

Opponents knew two things before facing the Browns:  force Chubb to have a bad day (no long runs) and make the Browns offense play from behind.  When a team gains a significant lead on the Browns in the second half, because of the Browns' commitment to the run, they struggle to pass protect in a drop-back scheme.  They can only play the game one way—through their running back. Now, with a dip in talent from Chubb to Jerome Ford, the Browns are in limbo. 

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