Margus Hunt had a very forgettable rookie season in which he barely saw the field and struggled when he did appear. But that wasn’t much of a surprise. The 6’8”, 290-pound explosive athlete has ideal physical traits for a pass-rusher up front, but he came into the league needing significant technical development.
In training camp this year, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has expressed that he believes Hunt has made the necessary improvements in his game to be a factor on the team’s defensive line this year.
“I think he’s made a huge, huge, huge leap,” Lewis said in a July 30 press conference, via Bengals.com. “Margus now understands what to do, and he understands the tempo and the things that we were trying to get him to understand at this point last May, last June and in training camp.”
If the coach is being honest about his player, there’s no reason Hunt shouldn’t become a playmaker in 2014. Possessing an absurd 40-yard dash time for his size—4.60 seconds—Hunt fires off the snap with burst and can beat blockers both inside and outside, but he needs to use his hands more effectively and bend more naturally.
He started putting his improvement to work in Cincinnati’s preseason opener Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs, in which he worked with the second-team defense. He knocked over Chiefs right tackle Jeff Linkenbach on one play to close with speed and sack Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray. Altogether, Hunt did a good job bringing pressure off the edge and held his ground well versus the run.
Hunt will need more than one strong showing against backups in the preseason to prove that he’s come a long way, but if he continues to perform well this summer, he should become a key piece of the Bengals' defensive end rotation this fall.
As Cincinnati moves forward without Michael Johnson, a star at the position who left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency this offseason, they could benefit greatly from the emergence of Hunt as a dynamic source of heat off the edge.