Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Arizona State defensive lineman Marcus Hardison speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals ranked dead last in sacks in 2014 after being one of the best consistently year in and year out in previous seasons. This result was largely due to the play of the defensive line. Due to injuries and players not reaching their potential, the Bengals had to address this issue. They signed Michael Johnson and Pat Sims, but they needed more. Cincinnati drafted a highly talented, yet raw player in Marcus Hardison. While there is very little game tape of him, here is the summary.
Marcus Hardison offers versatile along the defensive line, as he played both defensive end and tackle. He’s quick off the snap consistently and uses his hands extremely well, which allows him to attack the inside and pressure quarterbacks. Strong hands that deliver a strong pop that allows him to free himself from a blocker’s grasp, unbalance the blocker, or push them back. He is a quick pass rusher, which is surprising given his size. He has the athleticism, speed, and agility to be disruptive on every play. Hardison has a consistent motor and closes quickly on ball carriers while tying to force turnovers. Can change his position quickly so he can go to where the ball is. Accelerates off the ball and goes full steam ahead at all times. Works better with interior pressure rather than outside.
Hardison is still learning the defensive tackle position. He struggles to bend when pass rushing, which can get him off balance and take him out of plays. While his hands are strong, he needs to learn to use them more actively inside. Hardison needs to strengthen his lower body so he can be a better anchor in the run game. If his initial pass rush move fails, his rawness shows as he lacks technique at this point. He gets pushed back at times if asked to hold his position.
Marcus Hardison offers a ton of potential that he’s yet to reach. Although he’s raw, he seems to be a much better fit for the defensive tackle position. Hardison has a knack for disrupting plays and could demand double teams in the NFL, especially given his ability to quickly and effectively hit the gap. While he may be a bit of a project, don’t be surprised if Hardison gets some playing time and makes a name for himself amongst fans.
During preseason, Hardison is going to be interesting to watch as the Bengals decide where to employ him while also watching for how much his technique and lower body strength have improved over the offseason. Hardison could prove to be a fourth round steal.