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Margus Hunt looks like upgrade over Wallace Gilberry as nickel DT

The former second-round pick earned his role as the Bengals' nickel defensive tackle and first backup to Carlos Dunlap at defensive end.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There aren't many players Bengals fans like to bash more than Margus Hunt -- and that's fair. Regardless of how well he could potentially play in 2016, the former second-round pick will not have lived up to his draft billing by the time his contract expires after the upcoming season. But when it comes to evaluating a player on tape, it's important to forget draft billing and focus what a player looks like on the field -- because ultimately, that  Hunt was once a second-round draftee shouldn't have an impact on whether he makes the team, unless Cincinnati is hard-pressed for cap space (which the Bengals aren't). So with that, let's get into the Estonian's film.


Lack of a pass-rushing arsenal: There isn't much to show on film here, but the more one watches Hunt's tape, the more obvious it becomes how there's still a bit of rawness to his game. The defensive end has a nice bull rush, but apart from that, he doesn't seem to utilize many moves to beat defenders.

Relative inconsistency on outside contain: Of the defensive linemen behind the starters, Hunt is by far the most consistent player when it comes to containing the outside. However, there are a few occasions in which the defensive end gets caught inside and gives up a moderate gain on a play which should've gone for less.

This play seems like a bit of an anomaly, as it appeared as though multiple players had a chance at bringing down the Vikings' running back for what should've been a safety. However, that doesn't excuse the fact that Hunt pushed inside, rather than containing the outside run.

Here's another example of Hunt pushing too far inside. While he might not have necessarily been the one responsible for letting the tight end slip by into the flat, it's still worth noting he could've contained better on the play. In total, I found six examples of bad contain from Hunt throughout the preseason. For what it's worth, it appeared as though he was better in contain than the rest of the guys battling for rotational snaps behind the starters.

Too jumpy at the snap: Hunt was noticeably quicker off the snap this year than he was in past preseasons, but that also came at a cost. The defensive lineman was caught on a false-start -- and it would've been two, if not for a false start by a teammate, which bailed him out.

Overpowered by blockers: On occasion, Hunt

makes a play which infuriates fans, strictly because it's hard to understand how a 6-foot-7 freak of nature can ever lose a snap to anyone, let alone a reserve tight end or an interior lineman who is battling for a roster spot.

Again, it's important to note that while these frustrating plays do in fact happen, Hunt's good snaps far outnumber his bad ones. Every player has a bad snap or two when he's on the field for so long, so it's important to keep this in mind.

Lazy on backside of plays: One of fans' biggest gripes with Hunt has been his perceived "laziness" when it comes to hustling from the backside of a play to help his teammates out. The defensive end's lack of hustle to plays which go away from him needs to be addressed, as players shouldn't have an excuse to not put forth their best effort on every snap they take.


More consistent on outside contain than his teammates: Remember how I said Hunt struggled with inconsistency on outside contain? He does, but he's still far more consistent than his teammates in this regard. And considering a defensive end's primary job is to prevent runners from bouncing outside, that's a pretty important factor to Hunt's game.

On this particular play, Hunt prevents the runner from bouncing outside on what was initially designed to be an outside run. Forced inside, the runner was only able to gain about a yard on the play rather than the five or so he probably would've gained if the defensive end got greedy and tried to make the tackle.

Hunt isn't great at getting off blocks, but this play shows he's capable of doing it on occasion. The defensive end was able to shed a block and make a tackle for loss on this particular play. Ultimately, a defensive end's job is to contain the outside. And while Hunt still has a ways to go in this regard, he's still much better than teammate Will Clarke, who routinely bites on play-action and takes bad angles. (Clarke has strengths of his own, but I believe his particular weakness in this aspect of the game is a major reason why Hunt should see more of the field than him).

This play does a great job illuminating the dropoff from Hunt to Clarke when it comes to sealing the edge. Hunt gets outside and does a good job reacting to the running back, while Clarke bites on the play action and gives up the huge gain. A similar play happened last year, and it didn't end well for the Bengals.

Both Hunt and Clarke need to work on sealing the edge, but right now, Hunt has the upper-hand in this regard.

Creating penetration in the passing game: Hunt will likely begin the season as a defensive tackle in the Bengals' nickel packages, and he's earned his right to do so. DeShawn Williams looked good throughout the preseason, but Hunt was able to create pressure on a more consistent basis. To my count, Hunt tallied six quarterback pressures and six quarterback hits throughout the preseason. He would've likely had a sack or two if not for a couple of holds by opposing offensive linemen, one of which wasn't even flagged.

Hunt was clearly held on this play, but the opposing lineman got away with it here.

It also appears as though Hunt was held on this play after he blasted past the Colts' right tackle.

Hunt showed great awareness on this play, anticipating a rollout and putting pressure on the opposing passer in a successful stunt play.

On this play, Hunt blows by the right tackle and forces an incompletion by clubbing Stafford's arm.

Hunt does the same thing here, bulldozing his opponent into the quarterback.

More good stuff from Hunt here. The former second-rounder blew up a couple of run plays during the preseason, but he looked far more comfortable against the pass, which is presumably why he'll play defensive tackle in nickel packages.

Great Field Awareness: Something else which sets Hunt apart from his teammates, surprisingly, is his awareness. Considering Hunt has only been around the sport for about five years or so, you'd think one of his biggest weaknesses would be awareness on the field -- but the defensive lineman is surprisingly good when it comes to this aspect of the game.

Hunt sniffed out a screen pass against the Lions, forcing the opposing quarterback to throw the ball away.

On this play, Hunt recognizes that the running back is headed for the flat, forces him outside and watches the pass bounce in front of him on third down.

Hunt sniffs out another screen pass here, forcing a throw-away.


I'm not saying Hunt is the greatest player on earth. But, he performed well this preseason and has earned his job. Hunt's former draft pedigree will always hang over his head, but the defensive lineman has been far better than people give him credit for.

I'm not a big Pro Football Focus guy, but Hunt ranked near the league-average as a backup defensive end last year, and that was on a limited-snap basis. Perhaps a bigger role will give Hunt an opportunity to truly break out like fans had been hoping he'd do for such a long time.

Hunt drew double-teams throughout the preseason and made just as many plays as, if not more plays than, his teammates. Despite that, the guy gets aired out on Twitter and in comments sections of any Bengals-related site at any opportunity. I'm not saying Hunt is going to be a superstar, but I think he could be just as good as, if not better than, Wallace Gilberry was in 2015.

And to those who want to see Hunt get into fights to show "he wants it," those who say he "sucks" without watching a the film and those who barrage him with insults on Twitter, I say give it a rest. Despite his extraterrestrial frame, he's human, just like the rest of us. At the end of the day, he's just another guy fighting for his job.