Bengals begin the Margus Hunt project

May, 10, 2013
5/10/13
9:55
AM ET
The Cincinnati Bengals start their rookie minicamp on Friday, which means it's time for the Margus Hunt project to officially begin.

Selected in the second round by the Bengals, Hunt is the AFC North's most intriguing draft pick this year. He's the defensive end out of Southern Methodist who has little football experience and a huge amount of athletic ability.

[+] EnlargeMargus Hunt
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsThe Bengals are counting on Margus Hunt, their 2013 second-round draft pick, to adjust to Cincinnati's defense.
A native of Estonia, Hunt came to the United States to train for the 2012 Olympics (he's a world-class shot put and discus thrower) and ended up being the 53rd player taken in this year's draft. He didn't start playing football until 2009 and he learned the game by playing the Madden video game. In some respects, Hunt is the type of player you would only believe existed in a video game.

At 6 feet 8, 277 pounds, Hunt has unreal size, strength and speed. He ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in 4.6 seconds, the same time as outside linebacker Dion Jordan, a first-round pick who is nearly 30 pounds lighter than Hunt. He also recorded 38 reps on the bench press, the same number as defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, the first-round pick who is 34 pounds heavier than Hunt.

It's this ability that makes Hunt such a wild card on the Bengals' already stacked defensive line. He has the speed to rush the passer coming off the edge. He has the power to line up inside and collapse the pocket up the middle.

"When you watch him on tape, it’s not all the time you see it, but there are enough flashes that you see where you go, ‘Wow, this guy can really run, he can accelerate, he’s got strength’ -- all the things that you’re looking for," defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. "That’s why this is a good situation for us and for him -- we can teach him how we want it done, and he’s going to learn a new defense a little bit. Defensive line is defensive line, but it’s a little different techniques, and I think we can use his ability in our system a little bit better.”

So, why did Hunt last until the second round? There has been criticism that he plays too tall, that he doesn't dominate physically and that he isn't a great tackler. There's also the fact Hunt turns 26 in July.

"Football-wise, he’s about 12," Zimmer said with a laugh. "But he’s an exceptionally hard worker. I don’t want us to sound like he’s just learning the game, because he’s a good prospect. But he’s just learning more and more about it. He plays really hard. We were watching tape today, and I said to Jay (Gruden, offensive coordinator), when he cleared a couple offensive linemen, his acceleration to the quarterback was as good as I’ve seen from anybody. So he has a lot of things he does really, really well.”

Hunt is certainly well-rounded. He finished second in NCAA history with 17 total blocked kicks. He can play the piano. He even learned to speak English by watching action films like "Gone in Sixty Seconds." Hopefully, for the Bengals' sake, Hunt ends up with more hits than what Nicolas Cage has produced recently.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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