The talk of the league for the first five to six weeks was how Toledo rookie, Kareem Hunt, had been running through brick walls called NFL defenses. Hunt was crowned rookie of the year for the Kansas City Chiefs after the third game of the season. But if you take a closer look at his recent stats, it seems he may have run into a wall.
Through week three of the 2017 schedule, Kareem Hunt had totaled six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving). He was also leading the league by a mile with 538 yards from scrimmage after Kansas City’s first three games. Over the Chiefs past five matchups, Hunt has combined for 532 yards from the line of scrimmage and hasn’t scored a touchdown by air or by land since their week three victory over the Chargers. He’s still compiling a decent amount of yardage but hasn’t hit pay-dirt in quite a while.
Hunt’s M.O. is to start a bit slow and take over the game in the 4th quarter. That hasn’t happened much over the past month. The most alarming numbers are Hunt’s rushing statistics. His totals in rushing yards over the last three games: are 21, 87, and 46. These stats show us a few different possibilities.
One is that he’s hit a wall in the midst of his rookie season which is absolutely understandable. Another could be that defenses have more film to study on Hunt and the Chiefs offense to help better prepare them for upcoming games. Or it can be as simple as him facing tough run defenses as of late like Pittsburgh and Denver who held Hunt to a total of 67 rushing yards. Plus you do have to factor in-game circumstances and how things are playing out on the field.
Clearly Kareem Hunt’s success is in direct correlation with the Chiefs ability to win as Kansas City has lost two out of their last three battles. I’m not sitting here thinking that Kareem Hunt isn’t an excellent football player because he absolutely is. He’s multi-dimensional out of the backfield where he can beat you running or catching the rock. What I am saying is that perhaps he’s not the absolute dominant RB we all thought we saw when the season started.
One thing you cannot deny is how important Hunt is to the Chiefs’ success. If he plays well, they win. If not they’re most likely going to lose. Despite Alex Smith having an MVP-type season on pace to break a few records like total Quarterback Rating (Q.B.R.) for the year, if Kareem Hunt continues to decline, then I doubt the Chiefs will get as far in the postseason as most of us thought.
The Chiefs organization has been notorious for running their backs into the ground by feeding them as much as possible early in their career. In recent years I look at Priest Holmes, Jamaal Charles, and even Larry Johnson. All of their careers were plagued with nagging injuries that kept them off the field to varying degrees in their respective primes. It looks like that’s the plan for Kareem Hunt as well. Andy Reid will continue to pound the football and use Hunt as often as possible while he’s in his youth. Reid is no fool! He knows the best years a running back has are his first five seasons. It only makes business sense to get the best out of a player before having to pay them the big bucks.
As for the immediate future, Hunt and the Chiefs prepare for a visit to Dallas where the Cowboys are experiencing their own running back issues as Ezekiel Elliott continues to get suspended and reinstated. However, after all the appeals and court hearings, it looks like Zeek has won again as he’ll play this Sunday. The Cowboys defense is ranked 15th against the run allowing 106 yards per game. The Chiefs offensive line should be able to open up some big holes for Hunt and get the ground game going again. Hunt will probably get somewhere between four to six targets in the passing game, giving him the opportunity to reach the endzone for the first time since September 24th.
The question remains, has Kareem Hunt hit a brick wall? Is he in a slump or have defenses begun to figure out the Chiefs rushing attack? Whatever the answer may be, unless Hunt regains his form from the first five weeks of the season, Alex Smith will be asked to do something he’s truly never done before — put the team on his back and focus on the passing game to get K.C. to the promised land. As great as Smith has been, I’m not sure he can do that! Yet, he does have some phenomenal talent around him like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and a few other young receivers like Albert Wilson, De’Anthony Thomas and Demarcus Robinson.
Alex Smith has been incredible with 16 touchdowns and a big fat zero interceptions. Perhaps Hunt’s presence in the backfield is enough to scare defenses and allow Smith to keep his near perfect season going. Again, I’m not writing off Kareem Hunt at all. I’m simply saying that his stats are going down and there are a number of reasons why. The goal now is to correct these issues and have the Chiefs get back to what they were during the first month of the season.