The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Chiefs scouting report: Kareem Hunt and Justin Houston are players to watch

The Chiefs’ Justin Houston reacts after sacking the Chargers’ Philip Rivers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Placeholder while article actions load

The Washington Redskins will try to improve to 3-1 when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs at 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN.

The Redskins are seven-point underdogs as they seek the franchise’s first win at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs enter at 3-0 after a blowout win over the Patriots, then victories over the Eagles and Chargers.

Offensive player to watch: RB Kareem Hunt

A third-round pick out of Toledo, the 5-foot-11, 216-pound Hunt has burst onto the scene, rushing for 401 yards and four touchdowns on 47 carries. He averages an impressive 8.5 yards per carry and 133.7 yards per game while leading an offense that averages 31 points. He has also caught nine passes for 137 yards and two scores.

The skinny:

Hunt took over as the starting running back when the Chiefs lost Spencer Ware to a torn ACL and MCL in the preseason. Kansas City uses a diverse rushing attack that, in addition to pounding the rock with Hunt, features zone-read quarterback keepers as well as jet sweeps to receiver Tyreek Hill to keep teams off-balance. But it all starts with Hunt.

“He’s stepped up into a big role,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “It hurt when Spencer Ware went down in the preseason, and we had a big void there. Kareem has, obviously in these first three weeks, really stepped up into that. And for a young back to come in and play the way he has and handled all this stuff, not just physically but mentally, certainly says a lot — not only about him as a player, but his preparation as well.”

Redskins take:

“He’s an excellent back. He’s one of the better backs that I’ve definitely seen as a rookie,” safety D.J. Swearinger said. “I haven’t seen a rookie much like him in my five years playing. He’s definitely a tough task. He puts his foot down in the ground and gets vertical, breaks tackles. He’s an all-around back, catches the ball out of the backfield. We’ll definitely have our hands full with him.”

Said coach Jay Gruden: “I think he has great vision, number one. I mentioned the contact balance that he has, and obviously he has got the speed to run through holes. He has done very good. They have a great scheme over there. They keep you off-balance. They have got the zone reads going. They have got the jet sweeps. They have a lot of things that you don’t see every day in pro football. Coach [Andy] Reid does an excellent job with his offense and disguising his intent, using a lot of different guys to touch the ball, a lot of skill.”

The Chiefs average 162 rushing yards, but the Redskins, who rank second in the NFL against the run, will aim to contain them and not get caught up in all  of the misdirection.

“You’ve just got to read your keys,” Swearinger said, referring to the assignments each player is instructed to account for. “All the motions are window dressing. If you read your keys, it’ll take you where you need to be.”

Defensive player to watch: Outside linebacker Justin Houston

2016 stats: Limited to five games after coming back from ACL surgery, Houston had four sacks and 21 tackles.

The skinny: Looking to get back to his four-time Pro Bowl form, Houston already has four sacks in three games. From 2012 to 2015, he tallied 50.5 sacks, including a career-high 22 in 2014. He leads a Chiefs pass-rush that has 11 sacks, third-most in the NFL.

The Redskins have already faced three fierce pass-rushers in each of the first three weeks: They had to fend off the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox, the Rams’ Aaron Donald and the Raiders’ Khalil Mack, and now comes Houston. Every week in the NFL, there’s another challenge.

“People are always looking for pass rushers so, when they’re around, you draft them, or if they’re free agents, you go get them,” Gruden said. “They change the game. One of the big reasons the Chiefs are 3-0 and have had a great defense for a long time is the outside linebacker pass-rush. … They’ve gone through a lot of guys. Now they’ve got Dee Ford (one sack this year, 10 last year) and Houston, and they can play tight coverage because of that.”

Redskins take:

“He’s a little bit different than what we saw last week with Khalil Mack,” Gruden said. “He’s a talented pass-rusher. He’s got a little bit of a different style. He’s got great power. In base defenses, he doesn’t rush a whole lot. He drops [into pass coverage] a lot, and when he does, he’s a force. In nickel and sub defenses, he does a good job of lining up on both sides, over guards and very effective pass-rusher. Strong. He’s got a good knack for where the quarterback is. He can vary his rushes a lot of different ways. Inside moves, outside moves, power. … We’ve got to give our best pass sets when he’s in there.”

Read more:

Five story lines to follow in Monday night’s Redskins-Chiefs matchup

A Redskins player offered a college kid free tickets — in exchange for charity work

Thursday takeaways: Nsekhe’s surgery, Reed’s progress, Cousins’ wife in labor

Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is named NFC offensive player of the week

Kirk Cousins keeps photos of media members in his locker so he remembers their names