Trent Green is uniquely qualified to discuss versatile running backs. A two-time Pro Bowl quarterback during his playing career, Green played with three of the most versatile running backs in league history in Brian Mitchell, Marshall Faulk and Priest Holmes. Mitchell is No. 2 all-time in all-purpose yards; Faulk won league MVP honors in 2000 a year after helping the Rams win the Super Bowl; and Holmes was a statistical phenom in Kansas City while earning three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections.
Green, who currently serves as a color analyst for CBS Sports, will be on the call for Sunday's game between the Chargers and Browns. The Chargers offense employs arguably the NFL's most versatile running back in Austin Ekeler, who caught a key touchdown pass in the Chargers' Week 4 win over the Raiders. Green was recently asked who Ekeler is more similar to when asked to compare him to Faulk and Holmes.
"I would probably compare him more to Priest," Green said. "It is amazing how strong [Ekeler] is. His strength is incredible. Even though he is small in stature, he is a between-the-tackle kind of runner. He is an excellent receiver out in space. I would compare him more to Priest, because Priest was similar in stature, did not have a problem going in between the tackles, was good out in space in the screen game and out wide.
"Marshall was just a unique talent. … Marshall I kind of put into his own category because he was good at both [running and receiving]."
A 1,000-yard rusher for the Ravens in 1998, Holmes won a Super Bowl in 2000 while splitting time with future 2,000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis. Holmes quickly blossomed into a star upon landing in Kansas City in 2001. He won a league rushing title during his first season with the Chiefs while amassing nearly 2,169 all-purpose yards. Holmes led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in each of the next two seasons.
During a three-year span, Holmes averaged 2,189 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns per season. He and Green helped lead the Chiefs to a 13-3 record in 2003. And despite not punting once in their divisional round playoff showdown to the Colts, the Chiefs lost the game, 38-31.
Ekeler appears to back to full strength after missing six games with injuries in 2020. Through four games, the former undrafted rookie has amassed 424 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. Against the Raiders on Monday night, Ekeler scored two touchdowns while running for a season-high 117 yards on just 15 carries. Ekeler's start to the 2021 season is reminiscent to his 2019 campaign, when he amassed 1,550 all-purpose yards that included 993 yards on 92 receptions.
Ironically, Ekeler is not one of the two former Pro Bowl running backs who will be on the field Sunday. Those running backs are Cleveland's Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who combine to spearhead the league's top rushing attack through four games. When asked to compare the Browns' current running back duo to prolific duos of the past, Green said the difference is Chubb and Hunt's similar skillset.
"They both can do everything," Green said. "Now, is Hunt a little bit better of a receiver than Chubb is? Yes. Is he a little bit better in pass protection? Yes. Is Chubb maybe a little bit better on certain runs than Hunt is? Yes. They both have their plusses and minuses, but the thing that's really unique about them is that it doesn't have to just be first-down, second-down, third-down back."
"They both can do everything, and you just of go with the hot hand. … It's a great problem to have if you're the Browns."