There was that sense of foolish disappointment looking at the box score for Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Wait, he only tallied 101 rushing yards? No 50-yard runs or end zone trips? We’d come to expect more, after all, from the player who took his first 47 career carries for 401 yards and scored six total touchdowns. It’s in the moments when you realize that a workhorse-like 25-touch 121-total-yardage game internally registers as a letdown that reality sets in. Hunt is in the middle of a truly special season. All running backs are products of their environment. No rusher can truly function without proper blocking and even great backs — see Todd Gurley’s 2016 — can be foiled when planted in a poisonous offensive soil. The mark of a good back is being able to succeed in well-established conditions and getting the yards blocked for them. The great backs are the ones who create yards beyond just what they’re given. Hunt has been the best back this season at creating on his own. Through the first four games, he’s gained an average of 6.1 more yards after a defender closes within one yard of him (NFL average – 3.6), leading the NFL among running backs with more than 25 carries. For comparison’s sake, Elliott in 2016 averaged 4.4 yards after defenders closed within a yard of him. He ranked third in that category among backs with more than 200 carries. Elliott is a special player in the open field, a threat to break tackles and take any run for six. So far, Hunt looks like Elliott’s equal in that regard.
The offense-sustaining brand of games are what will really solidify Hunt as one of the best backs in the NFL. Monday night, he improved as an individual runner as the game went on. While he averaged 3.0 yards after a defender closed within a yard during the first two quarters, he improved to a 3.4 average in the second half. True feature backs get better as the game goes on.One area of the game where Hunt does appear to have an edge on Elliott is in the passing game. Hunt has made several big catches in the early portions of his rookie campaign, whereas Zeke was less of a factor with less than 40 catches back in 2016. Hunt averaged 3.5 air yards per target, a notably high rate for running backs. Slot receivers like Randall Cobb and Jarvis Landry sit at 5.9 and 5.6 on the season, for comparison. The NFL is full of surprises, but it’s hard to come up with a bigger shock than the dominance of Hunt through the quarter mark of the 2017 regular season. No matter your expectations, he’s exceeded them. It’s all the more impressive that through four games, it’s not outlandish to assert that Hunt is doing what Elliott did, and just might outdo him.
The Washington Redskins suffered a blow to their defense on Monday night. Josh Norman suffered a fractured rib during the the Redskins’ 29-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, according to coach Jay Gruden. Norman exited just before halftime after assisting on a tackle of Chiefs receiver Chris Conley. The Redskins are concerned Norman suffered a a possible internal injury and they are particularly concerned he is dealing with a possible lung issue. Gruden said Norman will continue to be evaluated and didn’t say after the game what the timeline for Norman’s recovery could be. Norman is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He signed a $75 million contract with the Redskins in 2016 and was a First Team All-Pro selection with the Carolina Panthers in 2015.
The return of Andrew Luck is nearly upon us. Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard confirmed Monday that Luck will make his practice debut this week as he continues to rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. Ballard said: “We’ll slowly start working him back into practice this week. We’ll see how much he gets. But we’ve got a plan in place to where we want him to start getting him reps and then, in time as we can get him incorporated back into team work and all that, we’ll get him back on the field.” Luck hasn’t practice since undergoing surgery in January to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. The Colts initially were optimistic he would be healthy enough to start the season, but his rehabilitation schedule has stretched into October. On Luck, Ballard added: “Andrew’s doing good, he’s doing really good. I’ve watched him throw the ball and he’s starting to get his motion back, getting his lower body to start working with his upper body. His strength levels are getting back to where they need to be”.