The Pittsburgh Steelers very briefly at the start of the 2019 season dabbled with the use of the pony backfield with James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, but this came to a screeching halt after Ben Roethlisberger was injured in the middle of the second game of the season.
They weren’t the only team in the AFC North interested in exploring this idea, however, as the Cleveland Browns also made use of it after Kareem Hunt, whom they signed as a street free agent last offseason, returned from his eight-game suspension. They put him on the field at the same time as Nick Chubb, a young Pro Bowl back, with the pair even showing the willingness to block for one another.
Though the coaching staff is virtually brand new, current offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt confirmed that he, too, is a believer in the two-back set—at least with these two particular backs in Chubb and Hunt, both still young players who have a Pro Bowl-caliber resume.
“I think you’d be crazy not to have your most talented guys on the field”, he said, via Keith Britton on Twitter. “Whatever package that is. We would be crazy not to put those guys on the field at the same time. Both dynamic as runners, pass catchers, protectors”.
Chubb was a second-round pick for the Browns in 2018, and he emerged as the starter by the end of his rookie season, starting nine games and rushing for just under 1000 yards with eight touchdowns. He started all 16 games in 2019, rushing for nearly 1500 yards, with another eight touchdowns. He is averaging over five yards per carry in his career, as well.
As for Hunt, he was a third-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, and quickly established himself as a highly productive player. He led the league in rushing that year with 1327 yards, scoring 11 total touchdowns, as a 16-game starter.
The following year, through 11 games, he totaled 1200-plus yards from scrimmage with 14 total touchdowns, including seven on the ground and seven receiving, but he was released by the Chiefs after video was released of him pushing and kicking a woman in a hotel lobby earlier that year.
He remained unemployed for the remainder of the season, but the Browns—whose then-general manager had been with the Chiefs when they drafted Hunt—gave him the chance to redeem himself. He played in eight games last season, starting three, for the Browns, totaling 464 yards with three touchdowns while working himself in as a complementary back to Chubb.
Hunt is much stronger in the passing game than is Chubb, with 1118 receiving yards on 116 receptions and 11 touchdowns in his career over 35 games. Having them both on the field, with his receiving ability, and the wide receivers at their disposal, means you can get defenses in a run look and beat them with the pass.