B.J. Hill preparing for bigger jump in Year 2 with Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end B.J. Hill (92) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the second half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

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Cincinnati Bengals defensive end B.J. Hill (92) celebrates after intercepting a pass during the second half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Defensive tackle resigned with Bengals in March

Even after getting a full season to learn the Cincinnati Bengals defense, B.J. Hill felt there were things he could have better understood had he not rushed into the playbook.

The Bengals acquired Hill in a trade with the New York Giants a few days after the 2021 preseason finale, and he arrived in Cincinnati about a week before the NFL regular-season opener. Although he had familiarity with Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo from his time with the Giants as a defensive backs coach, Hill had to cram to get ready for the season with a new team.

Hill made a successful transition as a rotational defensive tackle behind Larry Ogunjobi, recording 7 sacks over the team’s first Super Bowl season since 1988. He re-signed as a free agent in March and now is participating in his first offseason workout program in Cincinnati.

“For me, this is definitely needed, just to dive in the playbook more, focus on the little details coach has given me compared to where I didn’t have any of that last year because we were on the move when I got here,” Hill said. “I got here only the first week. So everything was just so fast-paced, but now everything’s slowing down. I’m actually getting to know every detail of what I need to do in my job so the defense can be even better.”

Hill, 27, looks forward to seeing how a full offseason and preseason with the team will help him be even more productive in 2022. He had 5½ sacks in 16 regular-season games, matching his rookie season total in 2018 when he started 12 games — 10 more than with Cincinnati last season.

Hill recorded just 2 sacks combined over 32 games and five starts during the 2019-2020 seasons, but knew he was capable of more. He wasn’t surprised by anything he did last year, even with the quick transition.

“I think highly of myself,” Hill said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence. I know what I can do. And I had Lou in New York, so just knowing him and my friends, like (former college roommate) Germaine (Pratt), they helped me along the way. Just having a year here is just giving me more confidence and being here and getting more into the playbook will help me be the best version of me, because Lou knows what I can do on the field. And that’s why he brought me here.”

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Prior to joining the Bengals’ staff in 2019, Anarumo was with the Giants during Hill’s best of three seasons in New York.

The Bengals were looking to improve the pass rush last year and signed defensive end Trey Hendrickson and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to add finishing threats up front, and Hill fit in as a depth piece. The interior pass rush had been almost non-existent during Anarumo’s first two seasons in Cincinnati.

Hill credits defensive line coach Marion Hobby for getting the most out of the unit.

“Coach Hobby is a great coach,” Hill said. “He loves fundamentals and focusing on our details. I think he pushed us to so many levels that we reached. By the end of the year, Super Bowl and playoffs included, I had seven sacks, Larry had seven. The outside guys had a lot of sacks. DJ (Reader) had some, too, as well. But he just pushed us so hard and helped us with our pass rushes. That’s the main reason I think we were so good getting to the quarterback.”

Hill said he knew he wanted to be back this year. He was entering the last year of his rookie contract with the Giants when he was traded, and the Bengals brought him back this offseason on a three-year, $30 million deal.

At the time, Ogunjobi was in the midst of finalizing a three-year, $45 million deal with the Bears, but the Bengals showed belief in Hill as the new starter. He says he is ready to assume that role, something he hasn’t done regularly since 2018.

“I bring a lot to this team, and my D-line, they all push me to the best me so I just come out here every day and nwork and work and work, like I’m a rookie all over again,” Hill said. “That’s how I take each and every day. I don’t think about the past. I like thinking about what’s up and what’s to come, so the past is irrelevant to me. I just like to focus on today and what can I do to get better.”

“My main goal is to be the No. 1 defense. I’m a team guy. Everything else will fall in line when you play good team football, when you play together, when you play for the guy next to you. Everything will just fall in line like it should be.”

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