Bieniemy praises Kareem Hunt despite slow start: ‘He’s playing hard, he’s playing fast’

This time a year ago, Kareem Hunt was in the midst of shocking the NFL.

The running back out of Toledo burst on to the scene with 246 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in Week 1. And that was just the beginning of his record-setting season.

But Hunt’s numbers through two games of his sophomore campaign look woeful compared to last year’s hot start.

In 2017, Hunt put up 229 yards on 30 carries in two games — good for 7.6 yards per carry.

He has more touches this year (34), but has run for nearly 100 fewer yards (124). Through two games, he’s averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and has one touchdown.

But Hunt’s numbers don’t come close to telling the whole story, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said.

“He’s running his (rear end) off,” Bieniemy said. “He’s playing hard. He’s playing fast. So I know the numbers are not there, but the effort, the energy and the detail is better than what it was at any time at this point last season.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Hunt is ranked as the No. 32 running back in the league. He’s played 80 snaps: 34 carries, 34 pass attempts, four pass blocks and eight run blocks.

One of Hunt’s focuses coming into this season was being a more complete player with an emphasis on getting involved in the receiving game.

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Though he only has one catch this season, that five-yard catch went for his lone touchdown.

“Obviously, Kareem had a big start for us last season, and that was huge,” Bieniemy said. “I will say this, I know the numbers do not show — Kareem is probably playing better football than what he played last year because he understands exactly what we expect from him. He’s done a great job of learning our system. Normally, players have a tendency to pick it up a little bit better in their second season.”

Even without monster numbers from Hunt, the rest of the Chiefs’ offense is rolling along smoothly.

Guided by Patrick Mahomes’ 10 touchdown strikes and 589 passing yards, the Chiefs lead the league with 80 points through two weeks. KC also ranks sixth in the NFL with 405.5 yards per game. Tyreek Hill’s 259 yards ranks fourth in the league among wide receivers, while Travis Kelce ranks seventh among tight ends with 115. Kelce is also one of just three tight ends with two touchdowns.

With numbers like that from the rest of the offense, there’s not much concern around the team about the run game’s slow start.

“Really, no one cares if we run the ball or we don’t run the ball,” fullback Anthony Sherman said. “As running backs, we just want to win. So if we have to pass to win, we’ll win with the pass. If we have to run to win the game, we’ll run the ball.

“It’s one of those things were there’s so many options that we have — run-pass options and all that — that the run is there and the pass it also there. There’s no right or wrong answer. They make a play, and then we go out there and execute.”

Brooke Pryor

Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.