Many fans believed that the addition of Hunt brought with it the writing on the wall for the franchise-tagged Michael Johnson. With Johnson demanding a large salary in the upcoming season, the Bengals are looking to groom their defensive end of the future now.
The Estonian-born Hunt shares similar physical attributes to Johnson—height, weight and arm length are almost identical. Both players were also described as raw, freak athletes when they came out of college. In fact, Hunt earned the No. 1 spot on Bruce Feldman's 2013 Freak List.
However, it wasn't Johnson that the Bengals coaching staff compared Hunt to during the second episode of HBO's Hard Knocks. Rather, it was Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt.
You can watch the episode here on YouTube.
During the episode, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer compared the two athletes:
I hate to say this, but [Hunt] kind of looks like J.J. Watt...I'm not saying he's that good, but he's a big, good athlete.
Zimmer is often hailed as one of the best defensive coordinators in the modern NFL. He has earned the respect of his colleagues after serving at his position for the past 14 NFL seasons.
For Zimmer to make such a bold statement about a rookie is highly unheard of. So why would he make that comparison in front of a national audience?
Looking at the attributes of the two players, it is easy to see what Zimmer means.
When Watt entered the NFL out of Wisconsin, his athletic 6'5", 290-pound frame with 34" arms was absolutely ideal for an NFL defensive end. Hunt's 6'8", 277-pound frame with 34" arms is equally as ideal.
The physical attributes are there.
The players even shared similar numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Watt ran a 4.84 second 40-yard dash, ripped 34 reps on the bench press and recorded a 37" vertical jump and a 120" broad jump.
Hunt ran a 4.60 second 40-yard dash, ripped 38 reps on the bench press and recorded a 34.5" vertical jump and a 121" broad jump.
The main difference between these two players right now is that Watt was NFL-ready when he was drafted in 2011. Hunt, on the other hand, will need a year under his belt to work on his fundamentals.
Keep in mind, Hunt has only been playing football for four years.
His inexperience shows when watching his film during training camp and in the Bengals first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. Hunt needs to get his pad level lower and his hands up higher to improve his bull rush and take advantage of his natural strength.
If he can get those fundamentals down, Zimmer's comparison of Hunt to Watt may not be so far-fetched.
After all, head coach Marvin Lewis had some interesting comments about Hunt on last week's Hard Knocks as well:
If you built a prototype and put together a left defensive end in the National Football League, it would be a guy that looked like Margus Hunt.
Apparently Lewis agrees with Zimmer on the physical attributes of Hunt. Now, it's just a matter if Hunt can continue to work on his fundamentals and put it all together.
If he does, we could be watching another J.J. Watt in the making.
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