When the Bengals spent a second-rounder on SMU defensive end Margus Hunt last year, he was immediately viewed as the heir apparent to Michael Johnson. Everyone expected MJ to depart in free agency for a lucrative offer somewhere, and it turned out to be a deal from the Buccaneers that will pay him over $8 million per year.
Now, his vacant starting DE job is up for grabs, and Hunt will have every opportunity to win it this offseason. Former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer believes he will take a big step in the 2014 season:
"Those guys have a good team. That's a good defensive team," Zimmer said. "They'll be fine. (Wallace) Gilberry is good. I think Margus Hunt will take a big jump. They've positioned themselves well for a long time."
Hunt had a decent rookie year in which he played 165 defensive snaps and registered 11 QB hurries. He was able to ease into his rookie season, using the first-half of the season to learn the DE position and understanding what it took to compete at the NFL level.
The former collegiate track and field star from Estonia was now having to learn how to use technique to beat lineman vs. his freakish athletic ability he was able to beat lineman with in college. Now that he's had a full year of experience and learning how to play the position in the NFL, he knows what he needs to work on most this offseason in hoies of becoming an impact player in 2014.
Zimmer also spoke on new Bengals DC Paul Guenther and how the Bengals D will be fine under him:
"Yeah, we’ve talked some. Those are good players. He'll do fine," Zimmer said. "He's got a good defensive team there. He helped me with protections and he did a good job with the linebackers."