Kareem Hunt was not utilized all that well by the Cleveland Browns last season, but he also didn’t seem to be the same player he was not too long ago.
Kareem Hunt has his share of fans among Cleveland Browns diehards, and rightfully so. Hunt has always been a runner with a never-say-die mentality, and his physical style has often paid dividends in relation to moving the chains and giving the team juice.
Of course, naturally, Hunt being a hometown guy and Willoughby South High legend has also been more icing on the cake, when it comes to the fan base embracing him. By all accounts, Hunt has been a model citizen and teammate since the original less-than-ideal circumstances that led to him being picked up after his release by the Kansas City Chiefs, and Hunt was integral to Cleveland returning to the postseason in the 2020 campaign.
That being said, while it wasn’t all on him, last season, there was seemingly a drop-off in Hunt’s play when the opportunities were there for him as a runner. Hunt had a career-low 3.8 yards per carry, and just three rushing touchdowns.
This recent tweet from Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus was telling, regarding Hunt’s 2022 campaign as well.
Hunt didn’t have a great 2022, and his Browns days feel numbered.
When he’s been at his best with the Browns, it was almost seemingly a 1A/1B relationship between Nick Chubb and Hunt as it pertained to making defenders miss on runs. Chubb’s skill set as arguably the game’s best pure runner of the football goes without saying, and he was still as dominant as ever when healthy last season.
Hunt, conversely, didn’t appear to have the same make-you-miss abilities in him last season, and those numbers from PFF above drove that point home. Hunt has never had the burst or open field speed Chubb, even as a big back, has had, but the formers’ power, and feel for shaking out of tackles was on-par it seemed for the most part in recent prior seasons to 2022 when he was available.
Unfortunately, despite some usage inconsistencies as a runner, Hunt was a shell of himself last season as far as evading tacklers on either runs on the interior, or in particular, on perimeter runs. That was largely a stark contrast to his prior seasons with Cleveland, at least for the first stat Hartitz mentioned at minimum, and previously with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, in fairness to Hunt, he still did a fine job as a pass catcher, and with Chubb in the fold, that shouldn’t have been discounted from Hunt, who has the second back in his time with the Browns, anyhow. Last season, Hunt had 35 catches for 210 yards, and he had a 79.5 percent catch rate, per Sports Reference.
However, Hunt objectively wasn’t quite at the same level as he was say in the 2020 season, or when he was healthy in 2021. Hunt’s yards per catch decreased to 6.0, in that realm.
So, whether or not his trade request before last season played some into things and/or fewer opportunities, it was evident that Hunt wasn’t nearly as effective as a ball carrier on runs. His pass protection and receiving still should help his case in upcoming free agency, but it’s not likely he’ll be back with the Browns next season, in what will be his age-28 campaign.
One couldn’t fault the Browns for potentially targeting Jerick McKinnon, or having Jerome Ford or D’Ernest Johnson essentially as replacements for Hunt, either.
If this it, though, thank you for your efforts, Kareem. It’s been a great ride.