- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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At the very least, the defensive end wanted to make sure this offseason he got a better handle on the Bengals' system than he did last spring and summer.
It appears his mission was accomplished.
"I did a lot better than I did last year," Hunt said as the Bengals ended organized team activities and minicamp practices earlier this week. "I'm a lot more comfortable with the plays and the situations and that kind of stuff. It's a good feeling."
Hunt spent much of the spring practices working out at the left defensive end position, but like all of Cincinnati's ends he got moved around during the workouts to other spots. He spent time at the right end spot; other days he received action on the line's interior as a tackle in the team's nickel package.
"It makes us more versatile," Hunt said of the rotations. "We don't have guys to have to play that one position [they're normally at]. We have guys who know what they have to do everywhere. That makes it so much easier. So if someone goes down or if someone gets tired or whatnot -- you never know what happens in the games -- we're going to go in and be able to know what's going on."
Very little, in that regard, changes from what the Bengals did defensively last season. Hunt was among those who ended up playing both at end and tackle following nose tackle Geno Atkins' midseason ACL tear. The only difference, though, is that while he was still trying to get a grasp on what to do at that position, he feels a lot more confident in his abilities as an interior pass rusher now.
"It was so much more of a struggle," he said.
While Hunt was pleased with his personal growth this season, the second-year lineman from Estonia credited his improvements to work he put in last season.
"What helped was being on the look squad [scout team]," Hunt said. "It's one thing to go through and get the mental reps while the other players are on the field, but it's another thing when you're actually in there playing. It's a total difference."
Hunt this season is expected to be part of a defensive end rotation that will hinge primarily on the play of five-year veteran Carlos Dunlap and seven-year vet Wallace Gilberry. As Dunlap took the majority of repetitions at right end, filling the shoes of the recently departed Michael Johnson, Gilberry shared action with Hunt on the other side of the line.
The trio is poised to enter training camp atop the depth chart at the two end spots, with Robert Geathers -- the longest-serving Bengal who was drafted by the club in 2004 -- and rookie Will Clarke to serve as backups.
30mEric D. Williams