Make sure to read up on Kareem Hunt’s Biography from last week if you have not yet. This is the second part to a breakdown of the Kansas City Chief’s newest running back.
Akin to a magician with foresight and inexplicable trickery, Kareem Hunt has the bright vision of a lead back. Like a fighter jet with radar, Hunt has foresight to see the shifting defenders before they even shift. Hunt turned that foresight into 1,475 yards and ten touchdowns in his senior season at Toledo, earning all MAC records. But now as Hunt looks to turn his skills into more magic for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL, he must add to his basket of tricks.
How does his current tool set aid the Chiefs, and how does that tool set look to expand with NFL coaching?
Tale of the Tape: Kareem Hunt the Magician
The Best of Kareem Hunt
There is little doubt that Kareem Hunt’s vision is incredible – it is not only vision, but foresight into defenders. He reads hips and eye angles like few other running backs do, and that alone is going to add the Chiefs in numerous ways. He won’t need coaching in fundamental running style due to this basic skill he has develop throughout his career. To put it bluntly: Hunt is a developed NFL running back looking to make an immediate impact. The finer points of his style is what needs improving by Reid and staff (and I do go in depth on where he needs to improve further down).
The balance and vision that Hunt shows was not developed in his senior season either, it has been there since high school. This clip from the 2015 matchup against Northern Illinois shows how his foresight. Notice that he predicts the linebackers moving into the right holes before they begin to shift, and he makes a cut early as if managing a game of chess.
Note: For all film, Kareem Hunt wears #3
This touchdown in the same game also demonstrates the burst out of the hole he has.
At Toledo, his vision and balance allowed him to capitalize on inside, trap, and sweep runs. Translating this to the Kansas City Chiefs, Hunt has full-time back potential. Now he needs to grow into that role to become a full-down back – especially on his third down runs – but the potential is there.
This run against NIU in 2016 shows how he always keeps his feet churning, and eyes up.
Combine this with athleticism, and he can be a fun open field runner.
Watching this you can observe that he has an uncanny ability to burst, but the burst comes late for what inside runners in the NFL need. Hunt’s burst is reserved for after he hits the hole; a strange almost lapse in thought process. Watching enough of Hunt, it is as if he must first think where he is going, and then once he has committed, then he can begin to play football.
Concern for Hunt as a true inside rusher out of I-formation creeps up here; he needs to learn how to hit the hole with conviction, and then continue to burst out of it.
A lot of what succeeds at the college level for players does not always translate to the NFL. The competition increases in the NFL ten-fold because every player was elite in college. One-step lack of burst might be enough to let a faster linebacker sneak back into the hole and stop Hunt for a loss instead of a gain.
The other area that Hunt needs a lot of work in is pass protection. These two screen caps below show Hunt ‘blocking’ blitzing linebackers by throwing his body into them instead of grabbing and stiffening up.
This problem is fixable if it is a matter of technique. Running back coach Eric Bieniemy and offensive line coach Andy Heck can work one on one with him to refine the technique. Adding NFL weight-room strength will also be an important factor for Hunt to handle linebackers. However, that is also the downside: if Hunt is simply not physical enough to handle incoming linebackers, being a good pass-blocker may be out of the question.
The Purely Developmental
Hunt was an all-star running back, but not all-star receiver, in fact the opposite at Toledo. It was not until his senior year that he became a viable target, catching 41 passes for 403 yards. The potential once he has the ball is exciting, so let’s start off with a really fun highlight against Western Michigan.
As an open field runner, his vision allows him to dart through the secondary as a slippery running back. This does work in favor of screens and dump passes for the Chiefs offense, but at the end of the day he has a hard time getting open. Hunt has a habit of running bad routes that are not crisp. The good about these routes is they do not represent an effort problem – so it may just be a lack of understanding how to shade off of linebackers.
Fixable? Absolutely, and Hunt has stated he wants to work on getting better everyday so he can turn into a full-time running back. Learning a route tree and a new playbook in one offseason is unfortunately a tall task and may not be seen in completion until later on in his career.
The other limiting factor for Hunt is his third-down runs. This goes back to his lack of conviction and acceleration into a hole.
When in tight packages, Hunt still dances as if he is running a sweep or out of shotgun. He delays penetration by wasting footwork at the line of scrimmage. This is more of a developmental problem, as footwork is a habitual process. First and second down, the footwork is no problem. However, on third down and tight packages, the footwork leads to wasted movement.
Hunt also wastes footwork in sweep plays, as shown above. This is a more fixable problem by alleviating the option to take sweeps far out and simply telling Hunt to punch it up field.
Hunt’s dynamic pop after the line of scrimmage is going to make for some special runs. His vision and balance down field makes for an exciting open field runner that has room to grow. That may be the best Hunt has to offer to the coaching staff: he is yearning to continue to learn how to make himself more valuable to the Chiefs roster.
Hunt may not be the primary back in 2017, or 2018. Spencer Ware is still going to get a large volume of work. But Hunt is going to come in and provide not only a stable, but a talented second running back. Hunt’s tool box is not diminished from that of Ware, implicating that opposing defenses will still have to prepare for the full width of the Chiefs playbook.
I leave you with this highlight from the Senior Bowl. Balance, vision, foresight – with a bit of refining and good blocking this is the running back of the future for the Kansas City Chiefs.
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