Bengals defensive tackle B.J. Hill, who last season's career year saw him knock down the quarterback more than Aaron Donald and Jeffery Simmons and have as many batted passes as Chris Jones while taking more snaps than Javon Hargrave and Jarran Reed (courtesy of Pro Football Reference), thinks he could be even better this year.
Speaking of the NFL Draft, where the Bengals are expected to pick about 11 p.m. Thursday in the first round, Hill says a fellow third-rounder, Zach Carter, can help him do it.
Hill said this week he's prepared to repeat his 816 career-high snaps at the three-technique ("If it helps us win and get us to where we want to be, heck yeah"), but "I know Zach is going to take it next level and play even more snaps than last year. Getting bigger and stronger and building confidence in himself. He'll come back bigger and stronger and play awesome. (I) might be (better). Fresher."
With nose tackles D.J. Reader and Josh Tupou both out for the same month, Carter piled up nearly 400 snaps after the Bengals took him out of Florida with the 95th pick. It didn't seem to matter to Hill how much he played fresh off signing a three-year deal after playing 502 snaps the year before.
"I knew my body could take it. I knew I could take the workload. I've done it before. I did it in college and I did it my rookie year," said Hill, who played 642 snaps after the Giants took him in the 2018 third round.
"I felt good in the playoffs. I think I took my game to another level. You look at the last couple of games and I think the tape speaks for itself."
Pro Football Focus rated Hill the best player on the Bengals defense in the AFC title game in Kansas City and the week before in the Divisional Game in Buffalo he hit Bills quarterback Josh Allen twice and batted two of his passes. The week before that in the AFC Wild Card Game PFF rated Hill their best defensive lineman against Baltimore.
The 816 snaps seemed to be a warmup, not an albatross. Hill won't say what he plans for an encore. He has goals and he keeps track of his own sacks, but he doesn't know his 8.5 sacks over the last two years are more than some of the league's better known three techniques, such as Simmons, Reed, Ed Oliver, and Sheldon Rankins.
"I don't care about anybody else. I don't try to compare myself to other people," Hill said. "I feel like when you do that, I don't think it goes well. I don't think it's good for you mentally.
"I keep my goals to myself. I just feel like it's personal to me. Those are my goals."
But Hill does reveal he wants to improve on everything, from his first step to his leadership. He turned 28 last Thursday, a reminder of why he altered his offseason regimen just a bit this year.
"Just trying to get more flexibility. I'm doing more Pilates and yoga. I'm getting later in my career," Hill said. "I've just got to do more of the little stuff to keep playing. I've seen how guys do that since I was a rookie. Seeing older guys work on the extra parts. I'm doing the same."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: The Bengals have the 28th pick for the fourth time, but it's the first one not via trade or an exemption.
The expansion Bengals were assigned the first and last choices of rounds 2-17 in the 1968 AFL Draft and took Utah State defensive lineman Bill Staley with No. 28 at the top of the second round. In 1984 the Bengals dealt the first pick for New England's three first-round picks and took Super Bowl starting right tackle Brian Blados at the 28th pick they received from the Patriots. In 1992, the Bengals moved from No. 5 to No. 6 in a trade with Washington that gave the Bengals the 28th pick, where they took Miami safety Darryl Williams …
After taking the Bengals to the last two AFC title games, head coach Zac Taylor is getting used to these crapshoots at the end of the first round. The two years since they took LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth pick might as well be 20.
"I don't think we look at it as difficult," Taylor said this week of the late picks. "You've just got to have your top 28 there that you are willing to take just because that's where you pick. It's not that much different than when you are picking, where did we get Ja'Marr? Fifth then you have the 36th or 37th. It's the same conversations really. You are just picking a couple of picks earlier than we had a second-round pick a couple of years ago. I think Duke (Tobin) and everybody in that room does a really good job of having the conversations we need to have." …
The perception of this draft is it's not as strong as has been at wide receiver. There certainly aren't a lot of big ones ranked highly. Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba is 6-0, 196 pounds. Boston College's Zay Flowers is 5-9, 182. USC's Jordan Addison is 5-11, 173. The outlier at the top is 6-2, 208-pounder Quentin Johnston of TCU.
Taylor, whose main man two years ago, Chase, is 6-1, 200, isn't prepared to say there's a trend to the slighter receiver.
"It's hard for me to say it's trending in that direction. There are some smaller body types in this draft. I have not thought back at last year's draft to see how this compares to that," Taylor said. "Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But I don't have a great answer for you.
"Maybe there's a huge receiver, maybe there's a small receiver that fits us this year. Maybe there isn't. It's just different positions can fluctuate year to year on the different body types you're going to face. We just want guys that we have a vision for; that can play a role for us. Sometimes the body type factors in, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we just want a good football player that can fill some jobs for us."