When the Kansas City Chiefs started out the 2017 season at 5-0 and were the talk of the NFL, rookie running back Kareem Hunt was a big reason why. Hunt wasn’t just good to start the season; he was ALL-TIME good. Hunt literally set records for yardage—both rushing and all purpose—to start the season, and every week it seemed like he set another one.
However, as the Chiefs success came to a screeching halt over the past month so have Hunt’s huge yardage totals. Now, Hunt’s numbers on the season still look great. He’s on pace for 1,400 yards rushing, another 600 yards receiving, and 11 total touchdowns. Those are great numbers for ANY running back, let alone a third round rookie out of Toledo. In order to hit those totals, Hunt and the Chiefs running game are going to need to recapture some of their early season magic. So the question is, how likely is Kareem Hunt to rebound after the bye?
Before we answer that question let’s define just how big of a drop off in production that we’ve seen from Hunt running the football during the Chiefs last four games. Durning the Chiefs 5-0 start Kareem Hunt was averaging 19.4 carries for 121.4 yards per game with four rushing touchdowns and a 6.3 yards/carry average. During the past four games where the Chiefs have gone 1-3, Hunt’s averages were just 14.5 carries for 47.8 yards per game with 0 rushing touchdowns and a 3.3 yards/carry average. The drop is staggering. Look at those numbers next to each other.
19.4 carries, 121.4 yards, 6.3 yards/carry, 4 TDs
14.5 carries, 47.8 yards, 3.3 yards/carry, 0 TDs
Yes, Hunt received about five less carries per game, but the production drop is what is really concerning. While the carries drop isn’t ideal it’s the 73.6 yards less rushing per game that is simply massive. Now, you can certainly argue that the pace Hunt was going simply wasn’t sustainable. If a back averaged 121.4 yards per game for a full 16 game season that would be over 1900 rushing yards. There aren’t many running backs in the history of the NFL that have put up that many yards in a season. However, the flip side is if Hunt averaged 47.8 yards per game for a full 16 game season it would only total about 760 yards. Last season, that total would have put Hunt just behind Baltimore’s Terrance West and a couple of hundred yards behind Spencer Ware (who had a down year production-wise due to injuries).
The bottom line here isn’t just that Reid hasn’t run Hunt as much, he simply hasn’t been anywhere near as effective. Was Hunt banged up? Did he hit a rookie wall after only five games? Was it the caliber of run defenses that he faced? There’s no way for me to definitively answer those first two questions but I did take a look at the run defenses that Hunt has faced to see if it could tell us anything.