It could be argued that Carlos Dunlap had a breakout season in 2010, his rookie campaign. Starting in week 9, Dunlap erupted for 9.5 sacks, without even being the starter at defensive end. The University of Florida product set the record for sacks by a Bengals rookie, and made a name for himself. The team, however, went 4-12, so as impressive as his first year was, it still didn’t get the team into the win column much, and may have kept him from getting the national recognition that he might have gotten if he had been on a team with a winning record.
In 2011, most Bengals fans thought Dunlap would build on his rookie season, but things didn’t go as planned. Year two saw him record just 4.5 sacks, less than half of year one. Injuries held him out of four games, and probably impacted his play in several other games. Geno Atkins became the bigger star on the defensive line, racking up 7.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Jonathan Fanene, Michael Johnson, and Frostee Rucker also made big contributions at defensive end. Dunlap did play well at times, getting pressure, but his numbers were down and he still didn’t get much national attention.