Kareem Hunt has spent a large chunk of the offseason educating himself about a position other than running back.
Don't worry — that's still his primary position. Hunt is well-known for his hard-nosed, bone-bruising style of runs that make him a weapon in any offense, and he'll certainly be asked to take a heavy load of carries from the backfield when the Browns begin the 2020 season. He's even a candidate to break 1,000 rushing yards if all goes well.
But Hunt, a three-year veteran, is preparing to elevate his role as a pass-catcher in Cleveland, too. He can do damage as a running back. He can also sneak in a chunk play from a screen pass or plow his way through defenders after the catch for short yard pick-ups.
Coach Kevin Stefanski is all about maximizing the Browns' offensive weapons, and there's arguably no player more versatile than Hunt, who's participated in wide receiver video meetings this offseason and is prepared to potentially expand his role in Cleveland's offense.
"Whenever my number is called, I'm going to be ready to go," Hunt said Monday in a Zoom call with local reporters. "It doesn't matter when, or if it's the passing game or running the football. Whenever my number is called, I will be ready. However they want to use me, just let me know."
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Hunt's biggest contributions last season didn't always come from handoffs.
He finished the year third on the Browns with 285 receiving yards, a remarkably higher total than his 179 rushing yards. His 37 receptions also ranked third among receivers, and his 276 yards after the catch ranked fourth.
Hunt did all of it in eight games after serving an eight-game suspension. Sure, he didn't garner a staggering amount of yards in any statistic and ended the year with just three total touchdowns, but he was another difficult player for defenses to plan around, and his catching abilities gave quarterback Baker Mayfield a needed spark that helped the Browns go 4-1 in Hunt's first five games back.
Cleveland lost momentum and missed the playoffs, but Hunt was still a steady contributor in both the rushing and passing attack. From the backfield, Hunt averaged 4.2 yards per carry and complemented that with 35.6 receiving yards per game, which ranked sixth among all NFL running backs.
Both of those averages could take a sharp climb this season.
Stefanski is bringing a run-heavy offense to Cleveland and plans to provide plenty of snaps to Hunt and Nick Chubb, who finished second in the league in rushing yards last season. The rushing tandem is among the most lethal duos in the league, and both are expected to shine with the Browns under Stefanski's offensive schemes from the Minnesota Vikings, who finished sixth in the NFL in rushing yards last season.
The heavy rushing plan is supposed to open more diverse passing options for Mayfield. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are set to receive the bulk of those throws next season, but after them, the competition is massive.
And Hunt is certainly in it.
"I have been very impressed with him as a receiver," passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea said in a recent interview. "Those are discussions that are kind of ongoing right now. We just try to really teach the offense at this point, build a foundation for the players to learn and then once we move forward here and get closer to being out there on the field, we will really have further discussions on exactly how we are going to use the personnel and what personnel groups we are going to be in."
It's tough to gauge how deep Hunt's roots into the passing game might go without watching the Browns take on-field reps. That's a sight everyone is hoping to see in August, and Hunt is doing his part to ensure he won't miss a beat to learning the new passing plays in Stefanski's playbook by participating in wide receiver meetings and preparing to take whatever role the Browns give him each week.
With his abilities, that role could change a lot.
"I'm going to do whatever," Hunt said. "If that is a block to help win, touchdowns — whatever. As long as we win, that's the only thing that matters and that's the biggest thing."