The Cleveland Browns are one of the best running groups in the NFL. Curated by Nick Chubb with compliments of Karim Hunt and Depth from D’Ernest Johnson, the Browns’ running game is a nightmare for opposing defenses. And he became stronger.
We shouldn’t be overreacting during pre-season, but it’s hard to ignore stellar performances and that’s exactly what newbie running back Jerome Ford gave Cleveland. After struggling through the first quarter as a criminal, Ford and the company entered the second quarter and lit up the scoreboard for the Browns.
Ford, a fifth-round pick from Cincinnati, found the finish zone on the ground and through the air for the Orange and Browns in the team’s pre-season opener on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. A 41-yard streak was added to the highlight reel for the Bearcat’s debut in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns rookie Jerome Ford makes his pre-season debut
If this game were to happen a week earlier, it would be another sign of depth in the strong running room of the Cleveland Browns. However, it now takes on a different meaning. Recently, Karim Hunt has been rumored to want to move out of Cleveland and Ford’s performance could raise some eyebrows on the issue.
A season ago we saw what D’Ernest Johnson could do if given the chance. Johnson filled in not only Hunt, but Chubb as well, starting two games for the Browns, with a total of 245 yards flowing during those two phases before blasting off for 123 yards in the last game of the season. A restricted free agent, Johnson returned to Cleveland on a one-year deal.
With both Hunt and Johnson on one-year deals, Cleveland’s depth of field going forward was a reasonable concern. The Browns have huge investments elsewhere on the list, so spending on Hunt and/or Johnson this season has been a concern. Then Ford arrived.
Now, that’s still pre-season and it’s only one game. Can’t jump to conclusions yet, but it was interesting to see Ford. Sure, he had confusion during the fourth quarter, but he also put in a really solid showing, totaling over 100 multi-purpose yards with two touchdowns. And that without appearing in the first quarter.
This isn’t exactly a surprise from Ford either. At Cincinnati in 2021, he ran for more than 1,300 yards and added 19 touchdowns to his baseline. After starting his collegiate career in Alabama, Ford moved to Cincinnati before the 2020 season and immediately scored eight touchdowns in his first season.
Normally, a game of this magnitude in pre-season wouldn’t mean much. Still, it could give Cleveland some flexibility with the backroom running. As mentioned earlier, Hunt recently demanded a trade. It appears that this request has been undone as he is training, but the concern remains. Cleveland could have let Hunt walk at the end of the season or move him now for some kind of comeback.
Given the location of Cleveland, this season, shooting the Super Bowl, bringing back the former Pro Bowl team so crucial to the game plan wouldn’t make sense. However, if Brown continues to see this level of play from Ford, that judgment could change.
Ford seemed a part of running at the NFL level, displaying speed and playability in both running and passing games. He showed the ability to come out mid-play to turn a loss into a gain and found the end zone multiple times. If you combine that level of talent with D’Ernest Johnson because the depth in Cleveland and Hunt seems more expendable.
It is noteworthy that it was not only Ford. John Kelly showed some life, too. Now in his fourth season in the NFL, and second in Cleveland, Kelly has had some strong runs that could serve as a serviceable last resort on the roster, as we saw last year when both Chap and Hunt came out.
Cleveland spent a lot to get Deshaun Watson into the quarterback. The team is exhausted from the venture capital and Hunt’s transfer could recover some of those assets. There should be more evidence of ability and confidence in Ford and Johnson before a move of this kind can happen, but the first pre-season game has made the needle more likely. If the right trade show appears over the phones, Cleveland Browns may be more inclined to listen.