By Conrad Clowers
Herald Sports Writer
Been a loooong time comin’. Cincinnati is finally being mentioned among the NFL’s top teams. A balance of offense and defensive, and explosiveness have put the Bengals squarely in the midst of the playoff race. This past weekend the Bengals officially turned the tide on the rival Pittsburg Steelers. A dominating 41-10 performance was only part of the story. Cincy has now defeated the Steelers three straight times. It’s a feat Cincy has not been able to do in over a decade.
One of the reasons the Bengals have put together a consistent defense for the first time in years is because of the dynamic end duo. Several teams pose threats that have two defense ends that can make for a long day at quarterback. Cleveland has Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney. Pittsburg has TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. The Bengals have put together a duo of their own that is having an outstanding season. Ends Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard have proven to be as formidable as nearly any in the NFL.
Hubbard has been a Bengal since coming out of Ohio State. The 4-year veteran has been one of the most consistent mainstays on the Bengal defense. Let’s just be honest. Until this season the Bengals have not put together the talent around Hubbard that would make the former Moeller Crusader stand out. That all changed in the offseason when the team was destined to lose Carl Lawson to free agency. They hit a home run signing defensive end Trey Hendrickson from the New Orleans Saints.
Grabbing Hendrickson was a gamble. The former Saint had recorded double-digit sack totals with the Saints in 2021. Cincy rolled the dice, hoping he could repeat or come close to his 2020 production. The gamble has paid off. Through 11 games Hendrickson has 10.5 sacks. He has come oh-so-close to even more.
On the other side Hubbard is not too far behind his counterpart. He has seven sacks. Both totals are decent seasons for an entire 17 games. Both Hendrickson and Hubbard have six more games to improve their total.
With the progress of the H an H combo of Hubbard and Hendrickson, along with the rest of the upstart Bengal defense, hopes continue to get higher each week. The Bengal defense has several real challenges the rest of the season from great quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert.
The playoff race is tight and only a few teams have played their way out of it to this point. For Cincy’s dynamic duo continuing to get to the quarterback could take the team a long way into the playoffs and beyond.