Bengals notebook: ‘Drago’ a hit at defensive end

Estonia native Hunt shows big improvement

High Contrast Normal Version
Enlarge Image
TOM UHLMAN | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Defensive end Margus Hunt has made some big plays that caught the attention of teammates and coaches.

CINCINNATI — When defensive end Margus Hunt lined up during training camp last season as a rookie, his new Cincinnati Bengals teammates couldn’t help but think of a movie character.

He repeatedly was compared to Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. As a crew for HBO’s Hard Knocks series filmed one practice, teammate Geno Atkins mentioned that the 6-foot-8, 290-pound lineman has a physique like that of the Russian boxer.

“Everyone keeps talking about that,” Hunt said as the cameras rolled.

Then he played along, lining up and reciting Drago’s memorable line: “I must break you.”

Now in his second season, Hunt is not fooling. He has made several highlight-reel plays during the Bengals’ two exhibition games, showing he is quickly getting the feel for what essentially is a new sport. And he is showing his teammates why the front office took him in the second round of the draft last year.

“He’s so strong,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said yesterday. “It’s good to see him moving guys around. With Michael Johnson gone, we’re really going to need him to step up.”

Johnson left as a free agent after last season, creating an opening for a pass rusher, and Hunt is getting a chance to earn a prominent role in the rotation. Halfway through the preseason, the coaching staff sees enormous progress from a year ago.

“He does keep doing good things,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “We’re going to keep pressing him and keep giving him the opportunity to do those things and keep growing.”

A native of Estonia, Hunt went to Southern Methodist as a track star. When the college disbanded the program, he tried football for the first time and was still raw as a player when the Bengals drafted him.

He was inactive for most of the first half last season but gradually got some playing time and showed bursts of talent.

During the first exhibition game this year, Hunt got Kansas City tackle Jeff Linkenbach moving backward and shoved him aside with one arm to get to the quarterback. Against the New York Jets on Saturday, Hunt pushed through the line to tackle a running back for a loss.

“He has been playing a lot more aggressively this year,” Peko said. “We’re excited about how he’s coming along.”

Bodine appears to be starting center

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander basically named rookie Russell Bodine as the starting center for the regular-season opener on Sept. 7 at Baltimore.

Bodine, a fourth-round pick, has worked with the first team since training camp began and started the first two exhibition games.

“Right now, it’s full speed ahead with Bodine,” Alexander said.

— Paul Dehner Jr.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEXT GAME

Opponent: at Arizona Cardinals

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

TV: NBC (Channel 4)

Radio: WBWR-FM (105.7)


Comments

Please Share Your Zip Code

To listen to 97.1 The Fan or ESPN 1460AM we ask that you provide a zip code so that we may give you the best audio connection possible.

Please enter your zip code:

No thanks