Who Wins Bengals’ Final Defensive Line Spot?

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Aug 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (99) sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish (5) during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Margus Hunt

The third-year defensive end has struggled in his first two NFL seasons, but this isn’t as big of an issue for him specifically.  The Southern Methodist product was selected with the knowledge that he would be a significant “project player.”  Hunt had only begun playing football in college after coming to the United States (from Estonia) to compete in track and field.

Nov 6, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (99) against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Margus Hunt offered incredible athleticism for his size (6’8″, and now 290 pounds), and Cincinnati simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to add such a physical freak.  With time and work, the Bengals hoped they could mold Hunt into the next great “off the edge” force.

Thus far, the experiment hasn’t paid off.  Hunt was predictably sidelined for the rookie season.  Instead, as is typical for Bengals rookies, he took the year to train and learn.  Hunt was expected to take the next step in his sophomore season, but his progress was hindered after suffering a significant ankle injury in Week 11 and missed the subsequent four games.

Year three seems like the proper year for Margus Hunt to take the next step.  But just when fans may have started getting excited for him, Hunt suffered a back injury, which kept him out for the entirety of OTAs.  Hunt could return for training camp, but if he is unable to do so, what could be his make-or-break year will start off on the wrong foot.

To this point, the Bengals have kept Margus Hunt on the roster due to the great potential he offers and the significant asset the team used to acquire him, but this may not be enough to keep Hunt on the roster going forward.  Margus Hunt is going to need to step up soon and live up to some of the potential he offered on his draft day.  Otherwise his time in Cincinnati may be coming to a close.

Next: Devon Still