With a healthy Odell Beckham, a perhaps fully realized David Njoku and a growing Donovan Peoples-Jones, the Cleveland Browns offense becomes significantly more dangerous, but the element that can truly set them apart is Kareem Hunt.
As a runner, Hunt can be somewhat feast or famine. There are times when he is really effective in that role, but he's always better as pass catcher.. He's also playing second fiddle to Nick Chubb, who is arguably the best running back in the league. When the Browns have used Hunt in space as well as in the backfield, he has been far more effective and the offense has been more dangerous.
The Baltimore Ravens game last season on Monday Night Football is the prime example of what Hunt can do to put stress on a defense. The Browns offense initially got off to a sluggish start. Receivers couldn't get separation against the Ravens corners, so the adjustment the coaching staff made was to put Hunt out wide.
Initially, the Ravens simply had a linebacker follow him out there. Hunt blew right by him and made a big play that set up a touchdown. Utilizing Hunt and occasionally even Chubb out wide is what broke open the passing game because the Ravens had to start using their corners to play against Hunt, which allowed their other receivers to find space.
The final touchdown the Browns scored in that game was on a hitch to Hunt against Marlon Humphrey.
Hunt is also dangerous on screens, but he can do that both from the backfield as well as lined up in space. The Browns have tried to establish outside screens to receivers to middling results. Hunt is around 215 pounds and difficult to tackle for corners as it is. Giving him a blocker only makes him more dangerous.
So while teams are dedicating potentially two defenders to deal with Odell Beckham, they are still worried about stopping Nick Chubb and have to figure out how to defend Njoku as well as Austin Hooper, Hunt can break the defense. Who's left to stop him?
If they put a linebacker on Hunt, it's a mismatch. If they put a safety on Hunt, that creates a spacing problem somewhere on the defense, because they are now unable contain Beckham or cover a tight end at the same time.
Moving Hunt presnap can give away what the Chiefs defense is doing coverage-wise as well as how they plan to defend Hunt. It provides additional information for Baker Mayfield while putting extra stress on the Chiefs defense.
Adding to this dynamic is the emergence of D'Ernest Johnson, who was fantastic in the preseason. Last year, Johnson was a decisive back with speed, able to create some big plays behind the Browns outstanding offensive line in limited opportunities. This year, he's been a dynamic receiving threat who can also block.
They should feel comfortable putting Johnson in the game. If Hunt is on the field more, as he should be, and the Browns want to keep Chubb fresh, as they often do, then they should plug in Johnson and let him be a part of the offense.
Johnson is good enough to get his opportunity to increase his workload and give the Browns yet another player on the field that can produce. This should make the coaching staff to feel more empowered to utilize Hunt in this expanded role.
For all the things the defense already has to worry about, make them have to figure out where Hunt is lined up on every play, be it by formation or motion and let them come up with a plan to somehow defend him.
The Browns are loaded on offense, but Hunt can be that extra element that makes them virtually unstoppable.