Two Browns RBs Test Positive for COVID-19
Even with former Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt on the mend with a calf strain, the Browns were just fine with their rushing attack. However, Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton have tested positive for COVID-19, and both may not be on the field Sunday (they need two negative tests 24 hours apart in order to play). Of course, the Patriots face a similar problem, with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, listed as questionable with concussions.
It would be just as well for the Patriots if Chubb stays home since he averages 5.35 yards per carry for his career. He already has 721 rushing yards despite missing two games with a calf injury and splitting time with Hunt most of the year. Even more impressive is that Chubb tends to gain most of his yards between the tackles.
Davon Godchaux, rookie Christian Barmore, Kyle Van Noy and Co. need to bring their hard hats and lunch pails on Sunday because they are going to have to go to work down in the trenches to plug up the middle of the field. Jamie Collins showed up big on an amazing short-range interception versus the Chargers, but he may have to help out against the run more than expected.
The Browns’ backup is D’Ernest Johnson, a survivor from the defunct Alliance of American Football, who has played sparingly for three seasons with Cleveland. When Johnson does play, though, he averages an almost Chubb-like 5.16 yards per carry, but has only 316 total rushing yards in his career.
Johnson is a savvy back who excels at reading defenses, finding the holes, and using his blockers. What he lacks is Chubb’s breakaway speed. Johnson was too slow to be drafted, clocking an embarrassingly slow 4.81 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day. That inspired him to embark on a training program with former Olympian Tim Montgomery of NUMA Speed. Johnson credits Montgomery with helping improve his fitness level, especially his speed and agility. He at least appears to be faster than his Pro Day numbers would suggest. He has career catch percentage of 76.5% and can also return kickoffs and punts.
Can the Patriots shut down the Browns running attack? That’s doubtful, but they can probably limit them to around 100 yards overall, then try to win the air war.