Last year, Cincinnati Bengals defensive ends Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard enjoyed career seasons.
The former had career-highs in sacks and tackles, while the latter notched the second-most of his own great career in each statistical category. Both players were major contributors to one of the best seasons in team history.
However, at the end of the year, especially when Larry Ogunjobi was injured in the Wild Card game versus the Raiders, Hubbard and Hendrickson played a high volume of snaps as the team tried to find more rotational pass-rush help. With then-promising-rookies Joseph Ossai and Wyatt Hubert shelved for the year, Cincinnati struggled to find consistent rotational edge rush help.
Hubbard joined us on The Orange and Black Insider this week, and we asked him how the line is shaping up this year. By what he’s seen so far this year, Hubbard is excited about the outlook of the entire defensive line.
“Yeah—that’s one of the things I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised with,” Hubbard told us. “You know, Cam Sample trained with me this offseason, he’s looked incredible—I think he’s going to have a great year. And, having Joseph (Ossai) back healthy, he’s getting better every day, getting experience under his belt.
“We’ve got some young guys on the inside, you know, Jeffrey Gunter, Zach Carter—they’ve impressed me.”
Sample might be a quiet key to the defense this season. Cincinnati tinkered with the idea of moving him inside and out at times, as he finished with 1.5 sacks as a rookie. We hadn’t heard much about Sample working out with Hubbard this offseason, but he’ll undoubtedly be primed for a bigger role in 2022.
Ossai is the not-so-quiet key to the defense, though. After an explosive preseason debut last year, hopes were high that he’d be a solid rotational guy off the edge. Unfortunately, the meniscus injury he suffered in that game wiped out his entire rookie season.
Both are taking limited snaps this preseason and both have flashed at times. Sample has seemingly taken a nice leap forward, based on preseason tape—be it from the workouts with Hubbard, general development, or both.
Meanwhile, the other two rookies on the line have also provided some nice moments in the two summer exhibitions thus far. Carter has been active and shown versatility, while Gunter has a sack and a pass defended in his first two games.
“But, like you said, we (Hendrickson and Hubbard) played too many snaps down the stretch, so you’ve really got to have that rotation going, so guys can stay stretch throughout the year because it’s a long season,” Hubbard continued. “Having trust in what I’ve seen from those guys develop and the snaps that they’re getting in the preseason is really going to help us down the stretch—I’m positive.”
Wyatt Hubert, a 2021 seventh-round pick who also missed all of his rookie season, recently retired, so the four names Hubbard mentioned particularly come into focus with that news. There are other names in the mix besides Ossai, Sample, Carter and Gunter, as well.
From the edge spots, veteran Noah Spence has made a couple of nice plays this summer after playing in two games and mostly being on the team’s practice squad last year. Raymond Johnson III has flashed some nice skills to develop as well. Let’s also not forget about Khalid Kareem who has versatility and the knack for big plays—it’s just that injury bug that keeps plaguing his career.
Hubbard talking up his teammates and being impressed from what he’s seen from them first-hand this spring and summer is a great thing. It would appear that regardless of whom the Bengals keep on the roster after final cuts and which players land on the practice squad, the team will have a cupboard of able rotational rushers—assuming everyone stays healthy.
By now, we pretty much know what to expect from Hendrickson and Hubbard: about 20-plus sacks combined, numerous pressures and the continuance of them being big-time disruptors. It’s now about who can come in and fill niche, rotational roles to aid those two and B.J. Hill in the middle.
If they can find a strong formula, the defense should take an even bigger step forward than what we witnessed last year. With Jessie Bates II back in the fold and fun swing players like Dax Hill showing they belong, Lou Anarumo should be excited about 2022.
We spoke with @Sam_Hubbard_ this week on the #Bengals #podcast and it was awesome. More clips of the interview to come, but this is the cool thing he’s doing with @MillerLite: pic.twitter.com/WW1JHseToV— Orange&Black Insider (@BengalsOBI) August 25, 2022
Our thanks to Mr. Hubbard, his representation and Miller Lite. The famous American beer is doing something really cool, wherein they are sprinkling actual Earth from stadiums on their barley fields to give it even more of a homegrown taste. With Hubbard being an Ohio native and playing for his hometown Bengals, he’s the perfect face for this unique endeavor by Miller Lite.
You can enjoy Miller Lite at Paycor Stadium for Bengals home games, or at your local, participating retailers. Please drink responsibly.
If you’re unable to join us live here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube for every episode, all of our podcast content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Google Play Music apps, our Orange and Black Insider YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels to be notified when we’re going live and when new episodes are available!