Poor Matt Hall. He must have known right off that Bengals left end Margus Hunt would spend much of Thursday night throwing him around the yard like some candy wrapper caught in the Paul Brown Stadium breeze as Hunt racked up three sacks.
The 6-9, 325-pound Hall is one of the few human beings bigger than the 6-8, 290-pound Hunt. But on the second play of the game Hunt whizzed by him to stack up former Bengals running back Boom Herron for a one-yard loss in the run game. They don't make them like that in the NAIA at Belhaven University, where Hall came out as undrafted free agent back in May.
"He should dominate in a game like this, and he did," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. "That's what you want to see. You want to see him dominate. That's the confidence he needs. It gives him the opportunity to critique himself. It's real life snaps and he gets to finish the rushes. A lot of guys can do good things in practice, but you have to go out and finish the rush. That's how you build your repertoire of moves."
The Bengals draft board came to life on Thursday night. Running back Jeremy Hill, taken with the 55th pick in May, dominated on offense. Hunt, taken with the 53rd pick in 2013, dominated on defense and has spent this preseason showing why the Bengals were patient with him last year. Hunt didn't bother going around Hall. He went through him with uncomplicated bull rushes. He could have been awarded another half sack and he just missed a couple of others.
"You can bull rush all you want," Hunt said. "But if you can't finish the play, then there's no sack. I was really working trying to finish the play and get to the quarterback."
Hunt finished with four sacks this preseason. He had one last summer and that will tell you how far he's come. From the moment he put on the pads in this training camp it's clear he's a different player.
"I've been in the system for a year. I know where to line up and all the responsibilities that come with that. Now I can really unleash and play," Hunt said. "Practices, the OTAs and camp, everything has helped me get the level of confidence that was missing last year. I can play more freely and faster. It got to the point I could have, should have, had the sack. I just didn't finish the plays."
Hunt spent Thursday night going to finishing school. The three ends that Hunt is going to rotate with on Sundays, Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, and Wallace Gilberry, didn't play and it makes you wonder how good this line will be. He's just glad he wasn't listening to Lewis talking about dominating games like this.
"I never heard him say that, so thank God for that," Hunt said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: It's unclear if wide receiver Cobi Hamilton's good game has come too late for a spot in Cincinnati. But his three catches for 74 yards came just in time for everybody watching film.
His 50-yard TD really woke up the echoes, considering his quarterback on the play was Tyler Wilson, the man that threw 90 balls to him at Arkansas two years ago.
"I was his guy at Arkansas, so he has that confidence to throw the ball to me," Hamilton said. "Whether he completes it or not, he still has that confidence. I think it's something that carried over from Arkansas." ...
: Veteran safety Danieal Manning finds himself in the tightest roster fight of his nine seasons. Even playing in a preseason finale was a new experience. But this is what he expected.
"My mindset was never to have come in thinking I wasn't going to play," said Manning on a night he had a 33-yard interception return for a TD.
"I look at week six last year," said Manning of his broken leg when he was with the Texans. "So you have rust on top of rust. I had to get in shape, find a team, had to get acclimated to a different playbook. I had a little more against me."
Manning doesn't know what's going to happen.
"I can only do what I can do," he said.