Bengals DE Sam Hubbard eyeing double-digit sacks in 2023: ‘The best I’ve felt in my whole career’


Sam Hubbard broke out on a national stage last season when his 98-yard scoop-and-score in the Wild Card Round propelled the Cincinnati Bengals past the rival Baltimore Ravens, cementing himself in Queen City and NFL lore.

But Hubbard has loftier objectives heading into the 2023 season, his sixth year in the pros.

“My main goal and only goal is to win the Super Bowl,” Hubbard said last month, via the team’s website. “This is the best I’ve felt in my whole career by a landslide physically.”

Cincy has been close to a title the last two seasons — falling just short in Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams and then losing late to the hated Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s AFC title game — but it’s been no cigar so far for Hubbard and Joe Burrow’s Bengals.

On a personal note, Hubbard is also close to breaking through. A 2018 third-round pick of the Bengals and a native Cincinnatian, Hubbard has already earned an extension — a four-year, $40 million deal through 2025 agreed to two years ago — but the Bengals pass rusher feels he can reach another level in 2023.

“I got double-digits in ’21 including playoffs, but I want regular-season double-digits,” Hubbard said of his sack totals. “I’ve been close. Last year I was on pace before I tore my calf … and slowed me up.”

Hubbard missed just one game in 2022 due to the calf injury and finished with 6.5 sacks. The defensive end’s career high is 8.5 sacks, set in 2019, and Hubbard has a regular-season total of 30.5 in five seasons, good for 39th in the league over that span.

In recent years, Hubbard has taken a back seat to Trey Hendrickson as Cincy’s top edge man — the big free-agent signing notched 14 sacks in 2021, his first season with the club.

While Hubbard has yet to lead Cincinnati in sacks in a single season, the Bengals stalwart is regarded as one of the top run defenders in the game, earning a 77.1 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus in 2022, the best mark of his career.

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee is already a Cincy legend for his “Fumble in the Jungle,” as his epic touchdown has been monikered. But Hubbard, locked in on his mental and physical health after his recovery from knee and calf injuries over the past two offseasons, can’t wait for what’s next.

“My core discipline, my routine during the week, cold exposure, sauna, nutrition. It’s a little bit better in all areas,” Hubbard said. “I’m ready to put it all together.”