INDIANAPOLIS — We’re only two games into the 2018 season, but if Margus Hunt’s performance is any indication, then the six-year veteran may be in for a career year.
In Week 1, Hunt wrecked the right side of the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive line to bring down quarterback Andy Dalton for two sacks.
The following week against the Washington Redskins, Hunt continued filling out the stat sheet, adding two more tackles for loss and a batted pass. Another sack was called back due to a teammate being called for an offsides penalty.
Through the first two weeks of the season, Hunt has a total of six tackles — five of which were either a sack or a tackle for loss, leading the NFL in that category — to go along with two sacks.
Hunt has also lined up at all four spots on the line already — 67 snaps at left defensive end, 22 at left defensive tackle, 18 at right defensive tackle and one at right defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus.
"The Estonian Mountain," as one Colts fan has called Hunt, is certainly making an impact.
"Margus is a beast right now," Colts head coach Frank Reich said this week in his weekly appearance on "Colts Roundtable Live" on 1070 The Fan. "He’s playing like a beast. And just two really solid games."
This offseason, the Colts transitioned from a 3-4 base defense over to a 4-3, which requires much different types of players. This was evidenced when the Colts eventually parted ways with defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins, Henry Anderson and John Simon.
The Colts focused on adding speed and athleticism to the defense this offseason, and that sometimes meant sacrificing good players for the sake of finding ones that fit the scheme.
Some wondered if Hunt might be on the roster bubble during training camp for these same reasons.
When he began his career with the Bengals in 2013, he was considered a raw product who would take some time to develop. Hunt was a track and field star from Estonia who moved to Texas in 2007 to attend SMU for their track program. After SMU dropped the track program, Hunt was introduced to football.
He was drafted in the second round by Cincinnati and played out his four-year rookie contract before moving on in free agency.
Although he had not yet developed into the potential game-wrecker at defensive end in Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense, Hunt had become a quality run defender and an even better weapon at blocking kicks, getting his hands on three in 2016 alone, leading the NFL.
The Colts signed Hunt last offseason, but they employed the 3-4 defense, which would be a change for him. However, at 6-8 and 298 pounds, Hunt was an easy fit as an end/tackle in the 3-4.
He played quite well throughout the year, taking over as a starter for five games when Anderson went down with a season-ending injury.
When the Colts brought in coordinator Matt Eberflus this year to transition the defense, some people’s curiosity about Hunt circled around him being a good fit as an interior lineman in a 3-4 coupled with the fact he was a pedestrian player with the Bengals as a 4-3 defensive end.
But although the base principle is the same, Hunt says the Colts run their 4-3 system differently than the one he played under in Cincinnati. Those differences have allowed him to thrive thus far.
Eberflus credited Hunt for relying on his strengths.
“He did the basics. He had great get off, he played with good pad level and used his length. That, to me, is what he does," Eberflus told reporters about Hunt after the Bengals game. "He didn’t get cute. He threw his fastball and he did a good job with that.”
Hunt acknowledged “using his fastball” and his overall development on the field has helped lead him to this start.
“With this defense, really, it brings out what you can do good,” he told Colts.com this week. “I’m just trying to do what we talk about in the meetings, what the coaches see, what we should do and how we should do certain things. Like Coach ‘Flus said, I’m just trying to throw my fastball every down.”