The 8-4 Cincinnati Bengals have claimed four straight victories and find themselves tied for first place in the competitive AFC North alongside the Baltimore Ravens. Cincinnati’s Week 14 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game) sent a message around the league. It was Cincinnati’s second consecutive victory over a postseason contender (they defeated the Tennessee Titans in Week 13).
Dominant defensive performances have been the backbone of Cincinnati’s ongoing surge. Defensive end Sam Hubbard is at the forefront of that success. Hubbard’s 5.5 sacks rank second on the team. He’s a difference-maker for their defensive line.
Hubbard joined The Draft Network for an exclusive discussion earlier this week while promoting his partnership with Campbell’s Chunky and the Chunky Sacks Hunger relief program. Hubbard discussed Cincinnati’s four-game winning streak, including Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs. Hubbard also shed light on his recent performances, Ohio State, and so much more.
JM: You’ve teamed up with Campbell’s Chunky to host a food donation event at Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati as part of the Chunky Sacks Hunger relief program. The program is designed to fight food inequality. Why is this cause so important to you and your family?
Sam Hubbard: The Sam Hubbard Foundation is set up to fight food insecurity. That’s our main focus. There are a lot of people that unfortunately go hungry in our community. It’s something that shouldn’t go overlooked. I think it’s a cause that everybody can get behind and fight as a united front. We need to help families in need that require hot meals. Campbell’s is helping me achieve that through the Chunky Sacks Hunger relief program.
JM: It truly is a special program that’s helping so many families in need. Your Bengals have won four straight contests, going from 4-4 to 8-4. What’s behind the recent success?
Sam Hubbard: We’re playing good football right now. We’ve been focusing on achieving steady improvement on a weekly basis. Getting healthy helps a lot too (laughs). We got Ja’Marr Chase back on Sunday. We got D.J. Reader back as well. We have some big games ahead of us. We’re taking things one game at a time.
JM: Sunday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs sent a message to the rest of the conference. These Bengals are for real again. A lot of people were stunned when you defeated the Chiefs in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Did you have this game circled on the calendar? I’m sure they did.
Sam Hubbard: No, I wouldn’t say we had this game circled, to be honest with you. We knew we had a tough stretch coming up with games against the Tennessee Titans and Chiefs. The end of season doesn’t get any easier. We still play the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens. We have a ton of big games on deck. We knew that we had to play playoff-quality football after our bye week. That’s the mentality we have going forward.
Do you feel like the Bengals are being disrespected or slept on a little bit? It sure felt that way at 4-4.
Sam Hubbard: Honestly, we’re not thinking about that. We’re not worried about that at all. We don’t consider what others think. Because we’re coming off of a run to the Super Bowl, we’re getting the best our opponents have to offer. We have a target on our backs. We have to show up week in, week out.
JM: You’re on quite the streak right now yourself. You’ve recorded sacks in back-to-back games and are up to 5.5 quarterback takedowns this season. Do you feel like you unlocked something in recent weeks?
Sam Hubbard: Not necessarily. I think I’ve been playing my best football this season. I think I’ve taken advantage of some of the opportunities that I missed throughout the early portion of the season. I’ve just been finishing plays, finishing sacks a bit better as of late. I really pride myself on being consistent though. I think my level of play has been consistent throughout the entire campaign. I’m getting better year in, year out. This is my fifth season and I think I’m playing as well as I ever have. I’m showcasing some weekly improvement.
JM: We’re seeing that right now. Your previous career high is 8.5 sacks. Are you gunning for a new career high? You’re just a few sacks away.
Sam Hubbard: I think there’s a lot more that goes into it besides sack numbers. I’ve already put up career highs in tackles for loss (11) and quarterback hits (17) with five games left to play in our season. I pride myself on being an all-around player and that includes defending the run. I’m recording pressures in the passing game as well. I’m going to keep making plays and doing what we need to do to stack these victories.
JM: The Bengals are receiving contributions from their 2022 rookie class as well. Guys like Cordell Volson and Cam Taylor-Britt are playing sizable roles. What has most impressed you about those guys?
Sam Hubbard: I think Cordell Volson is going to be an awesome player for many years to come. He’s such a pro at such a young age. He already carries himself like a professional. He’s getting better week in, week out.
Cam Taylor-Britt brings a special type of passion and energy to our defense. He stepped into a big role because we miss Chidobe Awuzie as well. Chido [Awuzie] is a huge part of our defense. Taylor-Britt isn’t afraid to make big-time tackles. I’m really happy with how our rookie class is performing.
JM: Those guys are stepping up. I imagine you were thrilled with the committee’s decision to include Ohio State in the College Football Playoff as the fourth seed. What was your initial reaction like?
Sam Hubbard: They have a big-time matchup coming up against TCU. I’ve been to the College Football Playoff a few times myself. I experienced some success and I experienced some tough losses as well. I get what that’s all about. It’s a big stage. I’m excited for those guys to get this experience. It’s a big opportunity for them to compete.
Sam Hubbard: Yeah, I’m always going to be pulling for my Buckeyes (laughs). I think he’s an excellent quarterback. He’s the leader of that team. I hope he wins the Heisman.
JM: We’ve appreciated your time today, Sam. In closing, what are your goals to close out the 2022 campaign?
Sam Hubbard: Our goal is to keep winning football games. I’m going to do everything I can to help this team both on and off the field. We have to keep our current success rolling. It’s going to be a fun back half of the year. This is exactly how we wanted it to be.
- Feb 07, 2023
- Feb 07, 2023