KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Running back Kareem Hunt has been brilliant as a ball carrier in his rookie season for the Kansas City Chiefs. He leads the NFL in rushing with 502 yards, or 140 more than his closest rival.
Hunt is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and he is tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns with six. He has two touchdown runs of more than 50 yards.
Hunt has been so effective after being handed the ball by quarterback Alex Smith that it's obscuring a bigger truth: Hunt has been every bit as good as an all-around player.
As a pass receiver, Hunt has showed the ability to not only catch and run afterward but to get downfield and beat coverage. His 78-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the season opener against the New England Patriots is the best example.
Hunt is fourth on the Chiefs in catches with 13 and tied for third in yards per reception at 12.1. Two of his six touchdowns have come as a receiver.
Hunt also has showed an aptitude for pass blocking that is uncommon for rookies. He took out two pass-rushers with a single block in a preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I like what he's doing," coach Andy Reid said. "You're getting a complete back. That's what you're getting. It's not just the ball carrier, and that's the thing that's important to a coach. Can he block and is he willing to block? Is he willing to get into the book and learn all the pass routes and how they situate with the run game and where it can help him and the team either way? How the blocking schemes work so you're not getting negative yards. He does all of that and he's got a good teacher. I don't want to slight [running backs coach] Eric Bieniemy in the whole big picture of things.
"That kid is willing to do the work. You don't know that until you get him here, exactly what you're going to have. But he's done all of that. He's been very good that way."
The next step for Hunt is to play more on third downs. He's played 89 snaps on first-down plays, compared to 16 by backup Charcandrick West, and 55 on second downs, with West getting 13. Six of Hunt's 13 receptions have come on first down and seven on second down.
But West has played 35 snaps on third down compared to 13 for Hunt.
Getting more playing time on the most important of downs seems only a matter of time for Hunt.
"He showed that he was a very capable receiver early," Smith said. "He had really good hands and could run routes, [is a] natural catcher. There are so many little things, especially with the back routes, leverage. ... You have to understand all that on the fly and how you are going to combat it.
"There are so many little things. You have to be able to handle all those compartments as a running back. I think he has done a really good job. ... We added more and more to his plate. And obviously, with Spence [Ware] going down, a lot got thrown on him right then. He has responded."