If the Bears went to Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night in search of a little self-confidence, they left unfulfilled.
This team is short on talent, and you didn’t need to watch the most significant of the four exhibition games to know that. The Bears’ drafts from 2009 through 2014 — six drafts totaling 40 selections — produced four of the team’s starters in the 21-10 loss to the Bengals.
Preseason isn’t a good indicator of regular-season success, but the Bears aren’t suddenly going to look faster when the Packers come to Soldier Field on Sept. 13. They’re not suddenly going to discover playmakers on both sides of the ball. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod’s back isn’t going to…
INDIANAPOLIS — Margus Hunt is back to build upon his career year with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts today announced that they have re-signed the veteran defensive lineman, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent when the league’s new year began on March 13.
Hunt, who will turn 32 just before the start of training camp this year, was a free agent signing by the Colts back in March 2017, after the former second-round pick had spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hunt had a solid first season in Indy as a spot starter in 2017, posting a then-career high 29 total tackles, including six tackles for loss, to go along with one sack, seven quarterback hits and two passes defensed.
But with the team changing to a completely new defensive front, the 4-3, in 2018, Hunt, at 6-foot-8, 298 pounds, was originally seen by many outside the organization as a player without a set role heading into the season.
Hunt quickly changed some minds, however.
Mostly starting out at defensive end before moving more inside for much of the second half of the season, Hunt collected career highs in tackles (30), tackles for loss (13), sacks (5.0), and he also added six quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
His play was key for a Colts’ defensive unit that made a major overall improvement in 2018, finishing 11th in total defense, and eighth against the run.
“Margus is a unique guy inside because of his length,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said of Hunt on Jan. 14. “Putting him at the three (technique) and the one (technique) it really kind of accentuated on what he is really good at. We were fortunate to have Margus.”
Hunt will be counted on to once again be a key piece for a Colts defensive line that will continue to be molded and shaped by Ballard and head coach Frank Reich and his staff.
Four other key contributors — Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard, Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay — are also back in 2019, as are the likes of Al-Quadin Muhammad, Grover Stewart, Hassan Ridgeway, Carroll Phillips and Jihad Ward.
The Colts also signed defensive end Anthony Winbush and defensive tackle DeShawn Williams to reserve/future contracts earlier this offseason.
INDIANAPOLIS — Margus Hunt could’ve easily parlayed a career year in 2018 into an opportunity to test the open market and maximize any deals that assuredly would’ve came his way.
Instead, on Tuesday, Hunt signed a reported two-year contract extension to remain with the Indianapolis Colts, a little more than a week before the start of free agency.
As it turned out, Hunt didn’t want to even entertain the thought of playing anywhere else.
“I was really hoping that this contract would happen sooner rather than later,” Hunt told reporters Tuesday in a conference call. “So it wasn’t really a hard decision to where, you know, I was wondering whether or not I was going to play out the market or not.
“I knew that if the opportunity arises for me to be back here in this kind of environment and with this team and these guys, it’s a no-brainer.”
The decision to bring Hunt back was likely a no-brainer for the Colts, as well, who saw the versatile defensive lineman set several career marks in 2018, finishing with 30 tackles — 13 of which were for a loss— to go with 5.0 sacks, six quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
Hunt began the 2018 season playing off the edge in Matt Eberflus’ new 4-3 system, but as the season wore on, he found himself lined up more within the interior of the defensive front. And while he started off the year hot with four sacks in his first four games, Hunt was an especially valuable piece for one of the league’s top run defenses, too, finishing with 20 run stops on the season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Hunt said the opportunity to play at several positions during training camp set him up well for when he actually had to play at certain spots once the regular season came along.
“I just think it was the training camp (practices), we had some injuries going on and around the defensive line, so I just got kind of inserted into all these different roles of playing defensive end, defensive tackle, and trying to take the reps and trying to put good stuff on tape, and that hopefully will show up,” Hunt told Colts.com’s Matt Taylor on Tuesday. “And it did throughout the season to where they were able to put me in all these different positions and be successful at it. And it worked out.”
All individual accolades aside, however, Hunt put one priority over all others when deciding to stay in Indianapolis for another couple years.
After starting the 2018 season with a 1-5 record, the Colts stormed back to finish with wins in nine of their last 10 games to earn their first playoff appearance in four seasons. Hunt said there’s something clearly building in Indy under general manager Chris Ballard and Frank Reich, and he’s happy to continue playing his part in taking the team where it thinks it can go.
“The locker room that’s here, and the guys that Chris and Coach (Reich) have brought in, and the chemistry we have right now, I mean, it’s just something that I didn’t want to change out for anything else,” Hunt said.
There are some exceptional prospects in the NFL draft every year, but Southern Methodist University defensive end Margus Hunt is one of the craziest in recent memory. Not literally crazy, but he makes you wonder if he’s from the same planet as everyone else.
Hunt’s from the same planet (probably), but not the same country. He came to America from Estonia, originally to pursue a career in track and field.
He won gold medals as a junior Olympian in the discus and shot put, and he also plays the piano. He’ll be 26 years old by the time the season starts—Hunt is truly a rarity among NFL prospects.
He also possesses an out-of-this-world combination of size and athleticism, measuring in at 6’8” and 277 pounds at the combine. Hunt ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds and had 38 reps on the bench press. To put that in perspective, Hunt ran the 40-yard dash as fast as the 248-pound linebacker Dion Jordan and had the same number of reps on the bench press as the 311-pound defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Foreign-born players are always interesting because they typically haven’t been playing the game for very long. In Hunt’s case, he’s been playing football for only the last four years. No one expects a guy who has been playing football for only a few years to have refined technique, but Hunt’s height makes any problems he has more glaring.
Hunt has been labeled as being “raw” from a technique perspective, which is certainly true when it comes to his ability to maintain proper pad level. For a player as tall as Hunt, he needs to keep his pad level down to be effective.
However, when Hunt does play with the proper pad level, he can take over a game. At one point against Fresno State, the Bulldogs assigned three blockers to try to slow Hunt down. If Hunt’s pad level rises, he can be neutralized and disappear in games.
How much a team values Hunt in the draft is going to depend on if it believes he can improve his pad level. For those teams that believe pad level is coachable, Hunt is a first-round talent. For those that think pad level is not coachable or that he’s too tall to ever be consistent with his pad level, he’s a third-round draft choice.