With the summer in full swing and NFL training camps less than two months away now, we gathered our Cincy Jungle staff to rank the top 25 Bengals of the 2020 season.
This ranking is simply who we believe are the 25 best Bengals heading into next season. It includes veterans and rookies alike, though it obviously is more favorable of players who’ve actually played snaps in the NFL, so don’t expect guys like Joe Burrow to be a top-five player right off the bat.
For a recap of the list, check out our stream here.
The Bengals put great care into improving the defense this offseason, and part of that was bolstering the defensive line. They signed D.J. Reader and drafted Khalid Kareem on the line to help strengthen an already strong group.
On the right side of the line is a player that gets overlooked because he’s playing in the shadow of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Carl Lawson. But he still took the No. 12 spot on our list, so he’s not to be underestimated.
No. 12: Sam Hubbard, defensive end
Ohio State has been a defensive line factory, and the Bengals were wise to take advantage of that pipeline.
A third-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, Sam Hubbard entered his rookie season as the third defensive end on the depth chart. Given his position, he had solid production that season, with 39 combined tackled and six sacks.
In 2019, his uptick in playing time resulted in an uptick in production. He had 76 combined tackles, 39 of them solo, and eight-and-a-half sacks. Hubbard was tied for fourth on the team in combined tackles and only half a sack behind Dunlap for the team lead.
He was able to improve his production despite the experimental schemes from defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Hubbard frequently dropped into coverage as the number of down linemen fluctuated frequently. Anarumo was in part trying to figure out what worked best while also figuring out the team need for the next season.
Despite moving between 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker, Hubbard was the second-most productive lineman on the team.
While it’s good to see Hubbard contribute in such a meaningful way, the Bengals are hoping they have improved to the point where they don’t need Hubbard to be the No. 2 man on the defensive line. That being said, the addition of Reader is a huge boost for him. Reader will help Atkins, which will in turn help the line as a whole.
Hubbard’s versatility will make him extremely valuable for next season. He is used to playing end in a four-man front, which he will continue to do. But he also showed willingness to play inside in a five-man front or to drop into coverage like an outside linebacker.
Moving Hubbard around will also get Lawson a more defined role, and he can be a game-wrecker when he needs to be. Lawson’s spot on our countdown has yet to be revealed, but what do you think of Hubbard’s placement? Let us know in the comments!