The statline was impressive: Six total tackles, three solos, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit. So was the man, but you might not know it yet.
“Love him,” Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said earlier in the season of defensive end Cam Sample, who was helping to fill in for the injured Sam Hubbard against the New England Patriots Saturday afternoon.
“He’s reliable. He’ll play in the league for 10 years just because he’ll always be in the right place. He’s strong. He’s smart as hell. He’s got instincts.”
It took him a little while, but Sample is beginning to show it on the field. He saw only limited action with Hubbard in the lineup, and, according to Pro Football Focus, had a statline of 13 solo tackles, four assists, a sack and six quarterback hits going into Saturday’s game.
Cam Sample had a couple wins like this on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/haZLvkdQJi— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) December 27, 2022
Up to that point, PFF had given him an overall grade of 54.2, which included a score of 63.9 against the run and a pass rush mark of 53.5. All of those numbers will increase with Saturday’s efforts as Sample finished as the Bengals’ third-leading tackler.
“He’s bright, he’s upbeat,” said senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner. “He’s detailed in his work ethic. He does an excellent job with his preparation on and off the field.”
His efforts could not have come at a better time. After jumping out to a 22-0 lead in the first half, Cincinnati’s offense took the second half off, and it was up to the defense to make sure the lead held up. A fumble caused by Vonn Bell and recovered by B.J. Hill with New England driving and less than a minute to play helped see to that.
“At the end of the day, that huge turnover created by Vonn that B.J. recovered really won us the game there,” said head coach Zac Taylor after the game. “It was a tough situation. They had the ball down there on the 5-yard line, and for those guys to step up and make that play was critical to us winning the game.”
As was the play of guys like Zach Carter and Joseph Ossai, who came up with one-half sack each, Josh Tupou, who recorded his first sack of the season, and Sample.
“We’re gonna be happy with the win,” Taylor concluded, “because they are so hard to come by.”