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Browns Mailbag: How effective can Kareem Hunt be out in the backfield?

Staff Writer Kelsey Russo answers your questions 

New Mailbag Week 5

We are about a quarter of the way through the 2023 season, and the Browns are 2-2 on the season.

As we head into the bye week, we're breaking open the mailbag to answer questions.

What player do you think has shined the most under this new defensive scheme by DC Jim Schwartz? – Kai Warner, Cleveland, OH

First, it's important to acknowledge that collectively, the defense has been a bright spot through the first four weeks of the season – even with their struggles in Week 4 against the Ravens. However, their confidence as a group has not wavered from what they can be as a unit.

In Schwartz' scheme, there have been guys across the board that have shined in the first four weeks of the season. I think we can look at how DE Myles Garrett has excelled defensively, with eight solo tackles, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble this season as one example.

Someone else who has stood out in this defensive scheme so far this season has been S Grant Delpit, who has 16 solo and 21 total tackles, as well as a fumble recovery for 14 yards, an interception and two passes defended. Schwartz has been able to use Delpit in different areas of the defense, either around the ball where Delpit can make plays or line up in different spots defensively.

In Week 1 against the Bengals, Delpit defended WR Tee Higgins with a high level of awareness to break up a pass. In the week following the season opener, Schwartz said that he's been watching Delpit since his college days at LSU and felt that his game against the Bengals was one of the best in his career.

"Grant's off to a great start and I'm excited for where he'll go this year if he keeps it up," Schwartz said. "I'm really proud to coach a guy like Grant."

How effective can RB Kareem Hunt still be out of the backfield? – Hudson Alltop, Stanford, KY

He can be very effective. Hunt is a physical runner with a slashing style and can catch the football.

Part of where the Browns are at now is working him into the offense with how he fits with their other running backs in Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. OC Alex Van Pelt said that as Hunt readjusts back into the system, he believes Hunt will get more touches.

Hunt has played in both games with the Browns since he signed on Sept. 20. He has 10 carries for 25 yards and two rushing first downs. He also has two receptions for 22 yards.

But there is a plenty of potential for the Browns to use Hunt to their advantage in the backfield. Van Pelt said that how they use the combination of their running backs can flow each week. His goal is to keep a fresh back in the game at all times, and not necessarily be dependent on which down.

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Ravens by the Browns photo team

What does WR Elijah Moore offer to the run game? I see that we are running more run plays with him, what can we expect with him running possibly often? – Tevyah Hanley, Cleveland, OH

This is still an area that the Browns are working through, but there is potential for Moore to play a role in the run game. He brings a level of speed to the run game and can make opposing defenses miss him at times. He has versatility for where he can line up in the formation.

"I think when you move a player around, like we do with Elijah, it requires a lot of study time," HC Kevin Stefanski said. "And obviously, out on the practice field, we're moving them around and walkthroughs and practice, but you have to spend a lot of time with it outside this building. And I know he does. And I know Coach (Chad) O'Shea and Coach (Callie) Brownson spend extra time with him to make sure he's on point with every one of his roles. And then from a coach's perspective, when you see a guy that is so diligent about it, you feel like you can put more on his plate as well."

Moore has a total of seven carries on the season for three yards and a first down. He has had some struggles in the run game through the first few weeks of the season, especially with the loss for 20 yards on a carry in Week 4 against the Ravens. However, it's not entirely indicative of what Moore can bring to the table. Stefanski isn't worried about Moore's early numbers and knows there is room for him to grow.

"Ultimately, we think very highly of number eight," Stefanski said last week. "And like I've told you guys before, I think he's good outside, inside, backfield, really anywhere you put him."

What kind of progress is WR Cedric Tillman making? He's a big receiver who shined during UT's biggest games last fall, and whose Draft Scouting Report complimented his 'positioning for optimal catch success.' Even though the Browns are better finishing drives this year, sounds like an excellent additional Red Zone Target. – Steven Anadell, Lorain, OH

He's continuing to progress. Tillman adds depth to the receiving core and provides an option in the passing game. Tillman has played in just one game this season in Week 4 against the Ravens, when he had one reception for five yards.

"Yeah, it's a lot for a rookie to come in, especially in the system where you never really got in the huddle," Van Pelt said recently. "So, the communication, the verbal information that was delivered in the huddle is new to him, so he's growing. I thought he had an excellent camp for a young guy, and he'll be instrumental for us throughout the course of the season as well. He's a big guy. He's got great pass skills, he can catch the ball, great body control, all the things that he does well. He's tremendous in the run game, so he'll be in there a lot as we move forward during the season."

Van Pelt also said that the red zone is also an area where they can look to use his skill set.

To pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea, Tillman's size, physical play and ball skills stand out. If he can play to his ball skills at his size, then O'Shea said he can create a role for himself and play to those strengths.

"Cedric, we've been very pleased with the way he has come out here and worked," O'Shea said recently. "He's really been very coachable. Not only has he been coachable, but he's really taken some of the veteran leadership that we have and really taken advantage of that. And we have such a strong room. As far as the character of the group, I mean, I can't say enough about our receiving group at the Cleveland Browns has very strong character, very strong work ethic and traits, and it's a great example for him. And I think he's looked left and looked right and he's had great examples to kind of lead him down the right path."