The Browns signing of running back Kareem Hunt has been met by plenty of criticism and questions.
First and foremost, why would the Browns sign a player that has had problems with domestic violence? While those questions should continue to be raised over the next six months, there is still the football side of the story. How does Hunt fit in the Browns offense?
Following the Carlos Hyde trade prior to Week 7, Chubb became one of the most effective running backs in the league. In the final 10 weeks of the season, the Georgia product rushed for 678 yards to go with five touchdowns. He finished the regular season 10th amongst running backs in rushing yards, as he was just four yards shy of 1,000 yards on 192 carries. With these numbers and the production from utility back Duke Johnson Jr., it is a little unclear why Browns GM John Dorsey would feel the need to bring in another talent in the backfield.
Part of the reasoning could be Dorsey’s willingness to upgrade his teams with talent no matter the position. For example, while in Kansas City, Dorsey drafted 2018 MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 draft, despite the fact Alex Smith led the Chiefs to playoff appearances in each of the two previous seasons. Dorsey did the same thing last offseason for Cleveland, as he traded for veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor before drafting Baker Mayfield with the first pick. Dorsey is always searching for talent to upgrade the overall talent level of his teams, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that he was quick to jump at Hunt.
Another factor to look at is how this past seasons playoff teams utilized their backfield. Each team either had one elite running back to carry the load (Dallas and Indianapolis), or employed a solid duo/trio of backs. The Saints, with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the Patriots with Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead, the Bears with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the Seahawks with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny and the Rams with Gurley and C.J. Anderson are all examples of good teams that effectively used all of their running backs.
In all of the aforementioned scenarios, one running back usually took over responsibility in the passing game while the other was more focused on the ground.
In 2017, Hunt caught 53 passes out of the backfield for 455 yards and three touchdowns. In 2018, Hunt was on pace to smash his 2017 receiving numbers before he was released by the Chiefs and placed on the Commissioners Exempt list. Chubb had his first real exposure to the receiving game in his rookie year, as he was rarely used out of the backfield during his time in college. Hunt would probably be more effective in a pass-catching role out of the backfield for the immediate future.
At this moment, Johnson Jr., who has been a receiving/third-down back so far in his career, seems to be the odd man out in this equation, but with Hunt’s pending suspension still looming, Johnson Jr. will have the opportunity to prove his worth on the team while Hunt is sidelined.
The injury concern for Chubb is also something the Browns should be wary of. Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury that kept him sidelined for more than half of his sophomore season at Georgia. He tore pretty much every ligament in his knee, and it became so severe that his NFL dreams were seriously questioned. While he did stay healthy last season, the Browns should refrain from giving him too heavy of a workload in hopes to not have any more issues with his knees.
Hunt returning from suspension likely sometime after week six could be perfect timing to give Chubb a bit of a rest in terms of his carries.
There is no doubt that the Browns have one of the most talented backfields in the NFL, and they should look to teams like the Saints and Patriots as a blueprint to how to balance an offense with multiple talented backs.