The original plan -- maybe hope is the more appropriate word -- came to the realization that defensive end Michael Johnson will leave for free agency, once his franchise contract expires this March. Cincinnati, anticipating the departure, unexpectedly drafted an athletic freak in Margus Hunt during the second round of the 2013 NFL draft. Develop, develop, develop.
Hunt benefited some with various injuries on the defensive line, along with a rotational effort as an inside rusher when Cincinnati had to find production after Geno Atkins went down with a season-ending injury.
One year later and the quest for Hunt's eventual ascension as a full-time defensive end continues... if not needing a little push.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who appears content on letting Johnson leave, is expected to spend time with Hunt during the offseason to further advance his development.
"One of my plans with him is to just maybe spend some individual time with Margus in the spring and get him up to speed with some different things," Guenther said via Bengals.com. "The first year, because he’s still new to the game in general, you know you’re in the NFL and you know the speed of the game and you know you’re against good tackles week in and week out, I think he knows what to expect a little bit better now. Hopefully he’ll make that jump this year. We’re going to need him to."
If Guenther has established himself with anything, it's developing players. Vontaze Burfict credits Guenther for his development during his young two-year career, inviting him to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl last month. Guenther also developed Emmanuel Lamur and seamlessly transitioned Taylor Mays into a hybrid linebacker when Lamur went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.
In a way, you have to feel confident that Guenther will make significant progress with Hunt, if only for his history of development.