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Bengals rookie DT Marcus Hardison impresses against NY Giants

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"It was an opportunity to go in and get snaps," said Bengals rookie DT Marcus Hardison, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hardison generated three tackles, a quarterback sack and a quarterback pressure.

If we're collectively judging rookies during Cincinnati's 23-10 win over the New York Giants, a passing grade would be more than warranted (at least among the players who played), while defensive tackle Marcus Hardison probably created the most buzz.

A former fourth-round selection out of Arizona State, Hardison variably floated between his native position at defensive tackle to left defensive end. Was Friday night an expected trend or the management of numbers with Michael Johnson and Margus Hunt recovering from injuries, forcing backups to play earlier than anticipated? Whatever you want to call it, it was an opportunity to impress the coaching staff.

"It was an opportunity to go in and get snaps," said Hardison, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hardison generated three tackles and a quarterback pressure. One of those tackles occurred with 3:29 remaining in the third quarter. Hardison dropped into coverage (because why not), and when he noticed quarterback Ryan Nassib scrambling, the rookie attacked for an impressive open-field stop.

Hardison Giants

Later, with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, Hardison sacked Giants quarterback Ricky Stanzi, forcing a third-and-18 from the Bengals 27-yard line, creating significant difficulties for the Giants last-minute threat. Troy Hill would deflect a fourth-down throw, terminating New York's possession, forcing a turnover on downs, and preserving Cincinnati's 13-point lead.

Hardison Giants

“It was a game,” said Hardison via Bengals.com, who earned his first sack on a stunt with fellow rookie DeShawn Williams. “He picked and I looped off him. He’s a great player…The veterans (fire us up). We want to pay up to par with them and they had some great three-and-outs.”

Alongside Clemson rookie defensive tackle DeShawn Williams, who has submitted a productive camp and his own quarterback sack, Cincinnati's interior defensive line has been impressive. Veteran defensive tackle Domata Peko credits Geno Atkins, saying Williams and Hardison are "learning from the best." Atkins offered advice to Williams that directly led to his third quarter sack.

"Williams recorded the first sack of the night for a stifling Bengals defense on a move that Pro Bowler Geno Atkins told him to make off the snap," writes Jim Owczarski with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Atkins noticed the center kicking out to the second level while the guard shifted, so Williams looked for it and beat them both into the backfield."

Hardison and Williams have legitimate shots to make the 53-man roster, but need to continue their production. Behind starters Atkins and Peko, Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson are destined to make the roster (both had quality plays on Friday too) whereas any vacancy remaining is wide open. Hardison, a fourth round pick from the 2015 NFL draft, seems to have a favorable position. Another name, Devon Still, played 27 snaps, was penalized for a neutral zone infraction, and didn't produce a single statistic.

As for the other rookies from the ‘15 NFL draft, offensive tackles Jake Fisher was inactive and Cedric Ogbuehi is stationed on the team's Non-Football Injury list. P.J. Dawson had two tackles, including one for loss, and cornerback Josh Shaw, who recorded a pass deflection, finished third on the team with four tackles. Wide receiver, Mario Alford excited with his speed (not unusual) but gaffed when returning a punt he caught inside the 10-yard line.