Chirping in the huddle is common, as receivers remind the quarterback they are always open and playmakers beg for the ball.
Baker Mayfield said Nick Chubb has never asked to be fed.
Joel Bitonio took it a step further.
“I do not think Chubb has ever spoke in the huddle one time since I have been here,” said Bitonio, who’s played every offensive snap at left guard since Chubb was drafted No. 35 in 2018. “It is the same face, the same guy. I think maybe he smiles for a couple minutes after we win a game, and then he is back to the same serious guy working and preparing for the next week.”
Chubb gains fans every week with his relentless running. He refuses to go down on first contact, breaking tackles and carrying defenders as he fights for every last yard.
The statistics and league rankings illustrate the point. He’s carried 51 times for 292 yards (fourth in the NFL), a 5.73 average (seventh) and four touchdowns (tied for first), as the Browns relied on the run game in the two straight wins to move above .500 for the first time since December 2014.
Those numbers, on the heels of Chubb going for 1,494 last year and losing the NFL rushing title in the final week, have earned him plenty of recognition across the league — even if he isn’t a household name with a superstar personality.
He doesn’t care.
Sharing a field Sunday with two-time rushing champ and three-time Pro Bowler Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys would motivate many players to prove they’re on the same elite level.
“I go out there and play my game,” he said during the week.
Is it important to be considered the best running back in the NFL?
“Not at all,” he said.
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Receiver Jarvis Landry believes him.
“I do. Strangely enough, I do,” he said. “He is not a guy that is in it for that. He comes in, comes to work, puts his hard hat on each and every day and comes out here and works just as hard as anybody on the field.
“If you watch him when he was mic’d up or if anybody else is mic’d up or anybody talks about Nick Chubb, he is never celebrating. It barely seems like he is excited about him scoring a touchdown, breaking a rushing record or whatever it is. I do not think he is in it for that. I think he just wants to win and do his job to the fullest.”
The matchup with the Cowboys projects as a high-scoring affair — the over-under is around 56 points — as both teams boast playmakers across the offense. Dallas has had most of its success through the air — Dak Prescott leads the league with 1,188 passing yards, more than twice Mayfield’s 564 — while the Browns have leaned heavily on the run game.
The Browns know they’ll have to trust Mayfield to win games, possibly this one, but coach Kevin Stefanski’s plan could include shortening the game and limiting Dallas’ possessions by bleeding the clock against its 23rd-ranked rush defense (127.7 yards). Stefanski has shown the patience to stick with the run even after unsuccessful attempts.
Chubb does get excited about that.
“It feels good. He trusts in this team and trusts in the offense to get it done,” he said. “Those 3-yard runs, 2-yard runs do not feel like much, but it does have an effect on the defense, and sooner or later, we will pop one open and break one. We have to be patient and stick with it.”
Kareem Hunt has been the other part of Cleveland’s run game that’s tied for third in the league at 170.3 yards a game. The 2017 rushing champ finished off the wins over the Bengals and Washington and has carried 39 times for 204 yards, a 5.2 average and a touchdown.
But Hunt didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday with an injured groin, was limited Friday and listed as questionable. If he can’t go or is limited, Chubb would take on a larger load.
“If he has to be the workhorse and carry it, he is definitely capable of doing that,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said.
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The Chubb-Hunt tandem is fun for its versatility with and without the ball.
“Kareem is a little bit more vocal out there,” Bitonio said. “He is not afraid to dish it with the defensive players and let people know, and he will try and hype up the O-line. He is a vocal guy. He is probably one of the most vocal guys once we get in the huddle, and Chubb is literally the opposite.
“It is fire and ice out there with those two.”
The Cowboys counter with Elliott, who’s firmly established in the upper echelon of the league’s backs after winning rushing titles in 2016 (1,631) and ’18 (1,434). He doesn’t need to tell Prescott to get him the ball because he has “Feed Me” tattooed on his stomach.
“All three of these guys can carry an offense,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “That is a great compliment to all three men.”
Elliott’s rushed 58 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns, adding 15 catches for 88 yards and a TD. He’s been held to 3.8 yards a carry.
“He runs with good balance. He has power,” said new coordinator Joe Woods, whose run defense ranks fifth at 94 yards a game. “We really have to get a lot of guys to the ball and gang tackle him, and we definitely do not want this game to be his breakout game.”
As the Browns look to reach 3-1 for the first time since 2001, there’s little doubt Chubb will play a leading role. He’s rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns in each of the last two games, the first Browns player since Leroy Kelly in 1967 to accomplish the feat. And his 13 100-yard games since being drafted are second in the NFL.
“When I get in the open field, it might look different because I am probably running with more confidence and power because I know those guys are not really going to have a chance to tackle me,” Chubb said.
Bitonio said anyone who watches the Browns knows Chubb is elite. And while the goal is to win the game regardless if Chubb excels, showing him off in the spotlight vs. the Cowboys would be a bonus.
“I said it last year and I will say it again this year, the goal is going to be for Chubb to be the No. 1 rusher in the league, and he was close last year,” receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “To see him right there in that top-five spot again, we just know that we are doing things right. Whatever it takes for us to win in this moment.”