The story of Sam Hubbard is nothing short of a dream. He played his high school football in Cincinnati, and he continued his college career at Ohio State. He won a state title and then a College Football Playoff title before the Bengals drafted him in the third round of this year’s draft.
Now, he is showing that he will be a name to remember for this team for the foreseeable future. Hubbard was able to put on tape what people have been talking about all training camp last week in Dallas. He is clearly ahead of schedule, and that bodes well for the Bengals.
In the second preseason game of his career, he recorded a sack and forced fumble. He also didn’t let the quarterback feel comfortable while he was out there on his way to earning Pro Football Focus’ highest grade of any Bengal defender on Saturday night.
#Bengals' Sam Hubbard, the team's rookie third-round pick, earned the highest defense grade (92.5) on the team against the #Cowboys. He recorded five total pressures in the process. pic.twitter.com/yGnOYxdfOK— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) August 19, 2018
Hubbard credits being a little less tired and more ready to go for his huge uptick in production from the first week of the preseason to the second.
“I went in there (last week) and my legs were still heavy from camp in that first game and I felt a little more rested going into this game,” Hubbard told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “I had my feet underneath me, so I wasn’t falling down as much as the first game. I just felt better overall.”
Hubbard will be part of a rotation that should see plenty of playing time. Cincinnati started to deploy this sort of rotation last season with pretty good results. It didn’t bring back huge returns, but guys like Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins didn’t wear down as quickly as season when they’d play more.
Even though Hubbard is coming off the bench, he should still see plenty of time. Last season the Bengals got Chris Smith (who has since moved onto the Browns) involved in the rotation in a similar way to how they’re using Hubbard. They would throw him out there at defensive end every so often, but they also loved throwing him out there as a defensive tackle in nickel sets. This is a role Hubbard is better suited for anyway.
It is starting to become pretty obvious that the Bengals defensive line is one of their deepest positions, and guys like Hubbard make it obvious to anyone watching the preseason. He still knows that he can’t take all the credit.
“I think we played great as a unit,” Hubbard said. “Staying in our lanes, working technique to get to the quarterback. It wasn’t just one guy. It was all of us holding down the pocket. We made some improvements on stuff we did wrong last week fitting the run with technique stuff that Coach [Jacob] Burney preaches.”
The defensive line should be a bright spot for the Bengals in 2018, and with the amount of young talent starting to flourish, it could be a bright spot for years to come.