The Cincinnati Bengals selected Margus Hunt with the 53rd pick of the 2013 NFL draft. Appearing in 44 games for the Bengals, he managed only 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks. It was hoped that Hunt would eventually breakout, but that day never came in Cincinatti.
Hunt comes from Karksi-Nuia in Estonia, where he focused on track and field. A move to Dallas, Texas to attend college and train with his track and field coach of choice led to a tryout with the football team at Southern Methodist University. In 2012, Hunt was cited by Bruce Feldman in his “Freak List” as one of the most purely athletic individuals in college sports. With such a letdown career so far, has Hunt lived up to the billing for the Indianapolis Colts?
Margus Hunt comes in at 6’8” and 277 lbs. His weight is typical for the position, but Hunt’s height makes him easy to find on the field. Likened to a “PlayStation football creation” by Feldman, Hunt put up 38 bench press reps at the NFL combine and ran a 4.60-second forty yard dash. Physically, Hunt shows speed and punch to make it in the NFL as a successful lineman. The largest blemish coming out of school was the obvious one of his late start to football.
To compare Hunt to a Buffalo Bills’ player, try to picture Jerry Hughes if Hughes were about 25 pounds heavier and 6 inches taller. Then, add in that Hunt put up 12 more bench reps than Hughes at the combine and was almost a full tenth of a second faster in the 40.
Watching film of Hunt this year, he come across as a bit of an enigma. Without knowing his exact responsibility on each play call, it’s difficult to know the cause of his sometimes-underwhelming performance. Often, he’s stood up at the line and is a non-factor. He will occasionally push the opposition, but he’ll move his match-up in a poor direction, taking himself out of the play. For some of these flaws, it appears he’s being used in a run-stopping role. For these plays, he will give a nominal shove across the line, then stand up and wait for the play to come to him.
When it comes to raw tools, Hunt looks to have the athleticism to dominate. The occasional lack of push is sometimes due to poor leverage. His height may be a hindrance in helping him remain low enough to push from a position of power. When pass rushing, he sometimes demonstrates speed to make a play, but poor technique makes it hard to capitalize. In the open field, he can look like an oversized rocket coming in to blow up the ball carrier.
The astute reader has likely picked up on the pattern of “sometimes” or “can” in the narrative. Frequently, Hunt seems lethargic or even apathetic on the play. He shows the power to drive back double teams on some snaps, which makes the rate at which he loses single match-ups perplexing. Seeing him rocket at the quarterback or shed off a block to sprint to the ball is unfortunately contrasted with a lumbering indifference to get back to the play at other times. If any single play captures this, it was watching Hunt give a tap to the o-lineman across from him then stand up and casually watch an extra point sail over his head.
Hunt flashes the potential to make plays all over the field. When everything clicks for him, he’s a true danger on defense. Even for shiftier skill players on the Bills’ roster, he has the length and speed to bring them down. As his stats reflect, though, it likely won’t happen more than a few times a game.
Hunt has been used all over the line as both a tackle and end. As an end, he seems to be used to rush the passer and nominally set the edge. As a tackle, he can be a surprisingly effective run stuffer for an end. Hunt has been on the field for just under half of the Colts’ defensive snaps this year.
Hunt has also been featured prominently on special teams, often lining up for blocking units. On special teams, he has logged just over half of the Colts’ snaps.
Interestingly, as the year has progressed, Hunt’s role in the defense has increased. In the first six games, he appeared in less than 40% of the team’s defensive snaps in all but two contests. One of these was a game where he only appeared in 40.3% of the Colts’ defensive snaps. In the next three games, his role was expanded, with no less than 44% of snaps and peaking at 55%. In the last three games, his floor was 58%, with a high of 77%. It’s a safe bet that Buffalo will see Hunt frequently this Sunday. His special teams role has likewise decreased throughout the year, with a low snap percentage of 14% coming two weeks ago.
On defense, he has logged 374 snaps for the Colts this year. He has managed only one sack and 8 tackles.
The Buffalo Bills should face favorable match-ups against Margus Hunt. Mental errors, possible issues with effort, and lack of technique make it highly unlikely that Hunt is a consistent threat to the Bills’ offense this week.
Athletically, Hunt is incredibly gifted. He has the ceiling to make plays happen against anyone the Bills will put on the field against the Colts. With that in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised if he makes a few solid or even spectacular plays. The biggest threat would seem to be in the run game, where he has the power to hold his ground and the reach to make a play.