Kareem Hunt gives the Browns' offense a new dimension

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns have struggled for much of the season getting the ball to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But in Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland had no problem incorporating its newest dynamic playmaker, running back Kareem Hunt, into the offense.

Coming off his eight-game suspension, the 2017 NFL rushing champ gave the Browns a much-needed jolt offensively in his Cleveland debut. He also provided the Browns with a new dimension, playing alongside running back Nick Chubb out of two-back sets -- a new look Cleveland is sure to utilize more moving forward.

"Anytime you get two backs in the game, it's tough for defenses," Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "Obviously, Kareem is such a dynamic player. He's able to block or run the ball when he needs to. He just does a lot of things well."

On Sunday, Cleveland unleashed the two-back set for 30 plays, or 45% of the time, and averaged a whopping 7.3 yards per play, well above its overall Buffalo game (5.6) and season (5.7) averages.

Hunt didn't simply usurp Dontrell Hilliard's carries as the substitute running back -- though Hunt did produce 30 yards on four rushes -- he delivered multifaceted impact, included as a receiver and lead blocker for Chubb.

Hunt finished with 44 receiving yards and seven receptions on nine targets, flashing the versatility that, as Mayfield suggested, figures to continue creating problems for opposing defenses.

"It made it tough," Beckham said, "to find out what we were going to do."

Underscoring that, the Browns shifted Hunt out to wide receiver on the fourth play of the game. With the Bills bringing a corner blitz, Mayfield flipped the ball out to Hunt for an easy 7-yard gain.

"Anytime that I can help out the team, whatever it is, blocking, catching passes, running, anytime that I can do something to help benefit this team, I'm going to do it," Hunt said. "That was my mindset."

Hunt benefited the Browns, however, just as much when he didn't have the ball.

Hunt was on the field for 38 snaps, or 58% of Cleveland's plays. And yet, he augmented the offense without subtracting from Chubb, who finished with 116 rushing yards on 20 carries, both numbers above his game averages for the season.

As a lead blocker, Hunt was outstanding, twice helping spring Chubb for big plays with kick-out blocks. On Cleveland's game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, Hunt took out blitzing Buffalo safety Micah Hyde, which allowed Chubb to break free for a 21-yard gain.

"Speed, passion, the ability to run the ball, catch the ball, had a big-time third-down catch for us -- a good player," coach Freddie Kitchens said, referencing the 9-yard reception Hunt had earlier on the same possession to keep the game-winning drive alive. "Blocked well for Nick, Nick blocked well for him. You're talking about two unselfish individuals.

"He and Nick get along great together, and he fits in well here."

All season, the Browns -- depleted at tight end due to injuries and unsettled at wide receiver after Beckham and Jarvis Landry -- have been searching for an identity offensively, despite their firepower.

They may have begun to unlock one on Sunday with the addition of Hunt, who gave Cleveland the threat of a fourth playmaker. When in two-back sets, the Browns can either pass to Beckham or Landry, or hand off to Chubb or Hunt.

"We saw how dynamic our offense was when we get those guys the ball," Landry said of the backfield. "Kareem's effort was amazing. All of his efforts -- second, third, fourth efforts were amazing."

Hunt ran hard. He blocked tough. He got open.

And he definitely fits in with the Browns, who might have finally found their missing offensive piece.