With their rookie seasons now done, let's take a day-by-day look at the Cincinnati Bengals' first-year players and examine what went right and what went wrong for them individually. Let's also examine the path ahead for the group that will comprise a key chunk of Cincinnati's foundation moving forward.
We'll start near the bottom of the depth and snap charts and work our way up, culminating with the first- and second-round rookies who had a major impact on the direction of the Bengals' offense in 2013. Tyler Eifert emerged as a quality blocker and pass-catcher at tight end, while Giovani Bernard was Cincinnati's most explosive playmaking threat, catching passes and piling up yards after the catch, and pulling off numerous highlight-show worthy runs.
Due to injuries predating the start of the 2013 season or time mostly spent on the practice squad, several first-year Bengals won't be discussed in this particular series. At a later date, we'll break down what their impact could be going forward. The names you shouldn't expect to see this week include: Cobi Hamilton, T.J. Johnson, David King, Onterio McCalebb, Quinn Sharp, Bruce Taylor, Larry Black, Brandon Joiner and Sean Porter.
DE Margus Hunt
2013 stats: Appeared in 10 games and recorded three tackles and 0.5 sacks.
How acquired: Second-round 2013 draft pick.
The good: Hunt was able to ease into his rookie season, using six of the first seven weeks to continue learning the defensive end position and understanding what it took to compete at the NFL level. During his limited time playing football in college at SMU, the former track and field standout from Estonia used his raw talent to get to opposing quarterbacks and to knock down field goal attempts at the line of scrimmage. For the first two months of his first season, he continued to be taught the base fundamentals of what he needed to do in order to succeed on the defensive line against Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackles and tight ends. With so many other talented defensive ends ahead of him, Hunt was able to be eased onto the field. When he got there, he helped shore up depth behind defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, and played on the interior of the line as Cincinnati tried to replace injured defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
The bad: Drafted late in the second round, hopes were high that Hunt would be able to contribute right away. As good as he was in college, Hunt still was a raw talent who lacked experience. He needed the time to learn. Also somewhat disappointing were Hunt's statistics. After appearing on 159 snaps, he only had three tackles to show for his efforts, including credit for a half-sack.
Looking ahead: Hunt's immediate future depends on what happens with Johnson, an unrestricted free agent whom the Bengals are going to try to re-sign. If they are unsuccessful, the Bengals will turn to a combination of Hunt, Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry to replace him. If Johnson does end up staying in Cincinnati, Hunt's role could be similar to the one he had in 2013, although his playing time should increase. Either way, Hunt's experiences last season will benefit his longer-term future. If 2014 won't be Hunt's year, 2015 or 2016 -- Gilberry and Geathers are free agents after 2015 -- certainly could be.