3 Cleveland Browns players who need to step up after the bye

• WR in a contract year

• A veteran running back could make the difference

• Deshaun Watson needs time to throw

Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns
Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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2. Kareem Hunt, RB

For four seasons, Kareem Hunt was able to play in front of a hometown crowd for the Cleveland Browns, but that all appeared to be over this year. Cleveland had initially moved on, and there were reports that the front office felt he lost a step.

They then went into the season with Nick Chubb, Jerome Ford, and Pierre Strong, Jr. as their running backs. Unfortunately, that lineup changed in Week 2 when the Browns lost Chubb to a knee injury that will keep him out for the remainder of 2023 — and possibly some of 2024.

With him sidelined, Cleveland turned to Hunt who had yet to sign with a new team. That led to a reunion as he signed a one-year deal that could pay him up to $4 million.

The hope was that Hunt could step in and make a difference right away but that was unlikely. He was always going to need a few games to get back into football shape. Still, he knows the system and the plays, so he was able to get into each of the first two games following his return.

So far, he has 10 rushing attempts for 25 yards and two receptions for 22.

Those stats will need to improve going forward since he might be the Browns best hope for turning the running game around. Ford has been feast or famine on the ground and is averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt. Strong has 5.9 yards per rush but they seem hesitant to rely on him too much for some reason.

As the veteran of the group, Hunt needs to provide more once Cleveland exits their bye week. He doesn't have to be their No. 1 running back, but he needs to find a way to bring a spark and a few big runs to an offense that needs a shot in the arm.