A year after the Bengals drafted him in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, Cincinnati-born Sam Hubbard had a breakout season in 2019, starting 15 games and recording 8.5 sacks.
Hubbard was supposed to expand this season into 2020, but as with everything else, 2020 had different plans. He had the first four games of a pedestrian earlier in the year and an elbow injury at week 5 left him sidelined for a month. Hubbard ended the year with 13 games and only two sacks. He had nearly three months of play in which he failed to bring the quarterback to the ground.
That will determine their season for most of them, and that has to change. Although Hubbard didn’t make quarterback often, he had an impact on the D-line. He had 62 tackles, 11 quarterback hits, and became ESPN’s top defender by run-stop win rate.
Hubbard’s growth as Run Defender and his overall game on his return to the field gave us some insight into his potential. Its prolific month of December had a defense grade of 89.7 from Pro Football Focus, but the first three months of the season left much to be desired.
While the Bengals played a variety of experienced quarterbacks, a defensive start must be more consistent over the course of a season. Hubbard is expected to enter a contract season in 2021. If the Bengals so choose, they can count on Hubbard to make his next payday. But is that payday already on the way?
Jessie Bates III and Sam Hubbard have been identified as possible candidates for signing renewals this off-season. Bates, who won the 2nd Team All-Pro award last season, is certainly worth the investment, but winning Hubbard for the foreseeable future could pay off if he makes the leap as a pass rusher. Hubbard can still be worth a second contract if he never turns out to be more than a run-defender. The question is all about how much this type of player is worth.
As cornerstones of the line of defense, along with DJ Reader and hopefully Carl Lawson, the Bengals will need more of former Ohio State Buckeye as he begins his fourth season in the NFL next year.