Bengals’ defensive end Sam Hubbard is heading into a crucial second season.
One of the few bright spots defensively last season, Hubbard was able to play in all 16 games, which was a rarity for Cincinnati’s defenders last year. He finished the season with six sacks, seven tackles for a loss and two passes defended, and did it while playing behind long-time veteran Michael Johnson.
Now, Johnson is out of the picture, and Hubbard is primed to takeover his vacant starting role at defensive end opposite of Carlos Dunlap.
Here is what we can expect from Hubbard in year two.
College: Ohio State
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Experience: Entering his second season
Hubbard is entering the second year of his rookie contract, and he is set to make $640,000 in base salary, according to Spotrac. He will take up $872,900 towards Cincinnati’s cap this season. With the rookie wage scale and Hubbard being a third round pick, he won’t be expensive for the Bengals for a few more seasons. He is already looking like a huge bargain for the Bengals.
Hubbard was a third-round selection for the Bengals in 2018. He previously played for Ohio State, where he had a solid career that was highlighted by his final season with seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.
Before that, Cincinnati’s Moeller High School won two state titles in Hubbard’s junior and senior season. It is no secret that the Queen City was excited when he was able to return home to play in the NFL.
Hubbard spent his rookie season as a rotational player. He would even see time at defensive tackle during obvious passing situations. Carl Lawson’s injury also opened up more snaps for Hubbard, but he never was given the chance to start over Johnson. He finished his first season with six sacks, seven tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
Hubbard should see a similar amount of opportunities in his second season. It mostly depends on how healthy Lawson is returning from his injury. Hubbard should remain a frequently used rotational player, though. The Bengals let Johnson’s contract expire, but they also signed Kerry Wynn, who plays a similar role that Johnson played.
Hubbard should be have a good competition between Wynn and Jordan Willis over snaps behind Dunlap and Lawson. What he does with those opportunities is going to be dependent on how much he has developed after his rookie season.
Realistically, you will probably see similar numbers to his rookie season again, which is still very good for a rotational player.
The Bengals need their defense to make huge strides this season, and Hubbard will be counted on to help make that happen. How much his role will change is up for debate, but his high-effort playing style and pass-rushing finesse should help his case with a new coaching style. Hubbard fits the bill of a long-term building piece if he can take the necessary steps this year.
Roster odds: 95%