One of the more interesting storylines of the 2016 season for the Cincinnati Bengals revolves around fourth-year defensive lineman, Margus Hunt. He was known as a project player back in 2013 when the Bengals took him in the second round of the NFL Draft and though he's had a disappointing first three years with the club, they have stuck by him because of his high ceiling.
Hunt is apparently feeling the pressure of a looming offseason with high expectations, as he has gone through a different offseason weight training regimen, harkening back to sessions he went through while competing in World Junior Olympic events in the mid-2000s. Before landing a scholarship with SMU and transitioning to football, Hunt competed in the discus and shot-put events.
"I went back this offseason to more of my Olympic style of training," Hunt told Coley Harvey of ESPN. "This is just something I know that works for me. We got the team workout from [Bengals strength and conditioning coach] Chip [Morton] and everything, so I still utilized that, but day to day I inserted some of the stuff I knew would benefit me. It helped."
Hunt has always had more than prototypical size for the position, standing at 6'8" and playing around 290 pounds while with the Bengals, but it hasn't translated to on-field production. In three pro seasons, Hunt has amassed just 1.5 sacks and 12 total tackles. Aside from having productive players in front of him on the depth chart, nagging injuries have also played a role in his lack of development.
As Harvey notes, Hunt has bulked up in this Olympic-style set of workouts and the hope is that he will be more powerful to get past offensive linemen, while also warding off the frustrating injuries which have plagued him in the past.
The Estonia-born lineman has seen positive results from his tweaked lifting sessions. He has bulked up, watching his weight climb from 290 pounds in January to about 300 now. The goal will be to get back closer to 285 or 290 pounds by the time training camp arrives in July. Once the Bengals begin doing more regular cardio sessions -- something he hasn't done much of this offseason -- he's confident the weight will fall off. At that point, he'll have the mix of size, quickness and power he thinks he needs to be a more dominant pass-rusher.
Hunt was largely-viewed as a bubble roster guy throughout the 2015 offseason, and though it might be a similar situation this season, playing into his corner is the fact that the Bengals didn't select a defensive end in the NFL Draft. Couple that with the departure of Wallace Gilberry, and it seems as if Hunt will have a solid opportunity to be a rotational lineman again this year.
While fans have been growing impatient with Hunt, he still sounds confident, proclaiming, "I know I can play". The big Estonian is getting creative to get his football career back on track, and the over-arching hope is that these workouts will be the catalyst to a turnaround.