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Sam Hubbard’s first NFL game in his hometown stadium was one to remember

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The hometown kid is forcing the Bengals’ coaches to play him.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When Sam Hubbard was drafted by the Bengals in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, opinions were mixed.

Did the Bengals really need another defensive end?

Was he worth the pick?

Why did he fall?

Another Ohio State guy (after just taking Billy Price in Round 1)?

But in his first game playing in his hometown NFL stadium (second NFL game overall) Hubbard began to show that the Bengals may have gotten a major draft steal.

With 9:16 remaining in the first quarter of the Bengals’ Thursday Night Football win over the Ravens, Hubbard ran after Joe Flacco and sacked him for a loss of 11 yards. It was the rookie’s first NFL sack and it was awesome.

What a moment for the Cincinnati native.

“I thought he’d threw the ball away and stole it from me,” Hubbard said after the game. “It was awesome. It was a great feeling. A perfect play. It’s something I can emotionally never replace or forget about.”

Hubbard went on to have an impressive tackle for loss in the second quarter and totaled five tackles in the game.

He also — for the second week in a row — was used on offense in a goal-line run package. The Bengals let Ryan Hewitt walk during final roster cuts, and it seems the plan is to use Hubbard as a fullback, when needed. When Hubbard came in as a fullback in Week 1, Joe Mixon scored a touchdown. Mixon wasn’t as successful with Hubbard in the mix this week. But, I’d expect to see more of Hubbard on offense going forward.

In the lead up to Thursday night’s game, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said, “I have to play Sam Hubbard more.” Hubbard played just seven snaps on defense in the Bengals’ Week 1 win over the Colts.

And playing Hubbard more is that’s exactly what happened in Week 2. Was it because he was a bigger part of the game plan? Or was it because of Michael Johnson’s knee injury? Either way, Hubbard is proving he deserves to be on the field and we should expect him to be playing (on offense and defense) going forward.

“It was a blast,” Hubbard said. “It was a little bit hot but it was a blast. The first primetime game.”

In addition to it being great to see Hubbard becoming a productive member of the team, it’s also mind blowing to see Marvin Lewis playing his defensive rookies. Just before Hubbard’s first NFL sack, fellow rookie Jessie Bates got his first NFL interception. It came on a Joe Flacco pass intended for Michael Crabtree just minutes into the game. Bates returned it 21 yards to the Ravens’ 16 yard line and it led to Andy Dalton’s first touchdown pass to A.J. Green.

It’s a different feeling as a Bengals fan to watch rookies making an impact on defense and it’s a feeling I think fans will enjoy quite a bit.

“Playmakers making plays,” Hubbard said after the game.

It looks like Hubbard is a playmaker!