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Bengals optimistic Margus Hunt will be key contributor

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Margus Hunt is still learning the game of football, but the Bengals believe he'll be a key player in 2014.

USA TODAY Sports

As the offseason continues and the NFL Draft inches closer, the Bengals have yet to sign any true defensive lineman. With Michael Johnson having left, a large void was left at defensive end, but the Bengals may have had his replacement already lined up. More than likely, replacing Johnson will take several players stepping up their game and getting more playing time in 2014.

Margus Hunt fits that bill. After playing a mere 170 snaps in 2013 (46 in final 3 games), Hunt is in line for a big jump in playing time if he can continue to develop and become a better pass-rusher.

In his weekly mailbag segment, ESPN's Coley Harvey was asked what he thought of Hunt, and he said the Bengals were high on the second-year DE:

Aside from his rookie season, the second-year lineman only has his four years of playing at SMU. It sounds like coaches were quite encouraged with his understanding of the defensive end position by the end of last season, and are optimistic that he'll be a key contributor this year.

For now, though, it seems he'll be in a right end rotation along with Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry. I'd venture to guess that based on Hunt's potential and Gilberry's success last season, we'll see those two get the most playing time there. Geathers will mostly play a supporting role.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hunt get used occasionally on the line's interior in certain Nickel rush packages like he was after Geno Atkins' injury last year.

If Hunt can give the Bengals 20-30 good snaps per game next year, the defensive line should be able to overcome the loss of Michael Johnson. Wallace Gilberry has proven he's  a capable starter, but the Bengals now need some depth on the bench.

Geathers can no longer be counted on to be a pass-rushing threat, so Hunt has a great chance to play a lot in 2014.