Browns RB2 Jerome Ford ready to assume his role as Nick Chubb’s top backup
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Takeaways from more Browns roster moves …
Jerome Ford. Remember him?
He was the reason the Browns didn’t think twice about re-signing Kareem Hunt as Nick Chubb’s backup. The 2022 fifth-round draft pick from Cincinnati via Alabama apprenticed as the team’s kickoff returner as a rookie. This was the year he would move into RB2. Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said he views Ford as a feature back.
And then a hamstring injury kept Ford from taking a single game rep in four preseason games.
But with the opener beckoning in 10 days, Ford is back and ready to replace Hunt as Chubb’s primary backup. The season-ending knee injury to return specialist Jakeem Grant probably means Ford would return kickoffs again, also.
“I don’t know the role yet, but whatever role I’m given I’m ready to do,” Ford said. “Coach been preparing all of us for everything. Whether Nick’s helmet come off or something or he will need a shoe tied on the sideline, we’ll be ready for whatever the situation is.”
Hunt was considered a third-down back specialist. But Mitchell said earlier in camp that the plan this season was for Chubb not to leave the field on third downs. Often, Chubb will line up as a receiver when Deshaun Watson is in “empty” formation.
The RB2 role inherited by Ford and rewritten by Mitchell calls for Ford to give Chubb a breather after two or three series. When Ford is on the field, he’ll also play all three downs.
Ford says he’ll be ready to answer the call for the Bengals’ game. But he knows he’ll have a tough week of practice, starting Monday, to get his body back into game shape.
“Definitely,” he said. “You see every play Nick runs … he runs about 40 yards after the play even though the play is over with and that’s us getting in game shape and that’s something that he taught us to do. So I feel like I do enough of that throughout the days and I kill myself through practice this week. I should be ready too.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski indicated that Ford’s four-week absence to rehab his hamstring injury did not alter his projected role. The only option – Pierre Strong – was just acquired in a trade from New England this week.
“Disappointed that [Ford] didn’t get preseason reps, but he’s played for us before,” Stefanski said. “He’s played in the preseason last year. He’s played in games last season. So he’s somebody that we do have a lot of confidence in.”
With all precincts reporting, Stefanski announced results of player voting for five team captains.
On offense, captains are quarterback Deshaun Watson and left tackle Joel Bitonio. On defense, they are defensive end Myles Garrett and linebacker Anthony Walker. On special teams, it’s long snapper Charlie Hughlett. A sixth captain will be appointed on a weekly basis.
The naming of Watson as a captain continues the evolution of his leadership now that his second season won’t be interrupted by league suspension or court proceedings in Harris (TX) County regarding two remaining sexual assault lawsuits.
“Deshaun, that’s very, very natural for him to lead,” Stefanski said. “And I think he’s comfortable leading from out in front. I think he’s comfortable from leading and letting his teammates get credit, and that’s just something that he’s always done his whole life. And just the way he’s integrated himself into this football team is impressive to watch from the course of the moment he got here to now. Just seeing how he’s gotten to know everybody on his team, how he pushes them, how he motivates them. I think you’re seeing a lot of examples of high-quality leadership from Deshaun in particular.”
A new D-Hop
The Browns didn’t sign former Watson teammate DeAndre Hopkins in free agency. But their division fortunes now may lie with another D-hop –place-kicker Dustin Hopkins, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Chargers for a seventh-round draft pick in 2025.
Hopkins, wearing No. 7, engaged in his first practice with the Browns. It was pre-scheduled to be held in Cleveland Browns Stadium on a veritably perfect weather day.
Hopkins attempted his first field goals for the Browns after media were escorted out of practice on Thursday.
“Getting down here was helpful, I think, for him,” Stefanski said. “He got down here early with the specialists and got a lay of the land and that type of thing, and he did a nice job.”
Among the missing on Thursday were quarterback P.J. Walker, newly signed to the practice squad, and cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion protocol] …
The Browns put linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk on short-term injured reserve. This procedural move enables the Browns to formally activate defensive tackle Maurice Hurst to the Browns’ main roster …
Per CBA, the Browns are off until Monday. These are sometimes sleepless nights for GMs, whose teams’ playoff hopes may hang with key players remaining out of trouble.. “You got to make sure that you use this weekend to your advantage,” Stefanski said. “You have to recharge that battery. It’s a short little respite here for everybody and we’ll work and as we’re looking ahead to Cincinnati and doing work on them. But just take a breather, charge a battery up and then get ready to roll.”