The good news for Margus Hunt is it doesn't look as though the back injury that plagued him for much of the offseason is lingering into training camp.
Hunt, now in his third NFL season after being a second-round pick out of SMU in 2013, missed the first four days of camp while on the PUP list as a result of the back strain he suffered during a weightlifting session back in May. Though Hunt is now back at Bengals practice, it doesn't look like he'll be ready in time for the team's preseason opener next week and is slowing into training camp.
Head coach Marvin Lewis said Thursday that Hunt would be held out of the first preseason game against the New York Giants next Friday. It's not an ideal scenario for Hunt, given that his roster spot is anything but assured right now. Because he missed most of the offseason workouts, second-year defensive end Will Clarke has received a lot of his reps during OTAs and early on in camp.
That's likely put Hunt behind Clarke on the depth chart considering neither has done much in the NFL to this point and were likely on an even playing field coming into the offseason. Clarke is essentially a rookie after playing just 64 snaps in 2014, but Hunt has only been active for 22 games and his NFL stats consist of just 1.5 sacks and six tackles.
Because hunt will miss the first preseason game, that likely means Clarke will get even more snaps and chances to impress the coaches against the Giants. At this point, Cincinnati may only keep four defensive ends on the final 53-man roster. Because rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison can also play DE, it only makes that scenario likelier, meaning that fourth DE spot behind Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Wallace Gilberry could come down to Clarke vs Hunt.
If that ends up being the case, Hunt's roster spot is very much in jeopardy. Whatever happens, his chances of making the Bengals' final roster certainly haven't gotten better through the first week of training camp.