After a knee sprain in the preseason sidelined Dunlap for nearly the entire preseason, as well as the Bengals’ first two games, the durability of Dunlap once again reared its ugly head, and going into last weeks’ game vs. Washington, many wondered just how much of an impact he could have after missing nearly two full months of live football, not to mention all the practice time the third-year player missed. The questions were answered early and often, as he finished with one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The forced fumble came on a devastating hit he put on QB Robert Griffin III deep in the Redskins’ territory that resulted in a Bengals TD and subsequent 24-7 lead in a game they went on to win 38-31.
Despite Dunlap’s lack of durability and being liability in run-support, its evident that he should be on the field more, as he is clearly the teams’ most efficient pass rusher. This table from last year illustrates just how effective a pass-rusher he’s been for the Bengals:
The other two players to see more than 140 snaps at that position were Jonathan Fanene (+0.2) and Robert Geathers (-7.0). Neither could match Dunlap’s production as a pass rusher as the table below shows:
Rush Snaps as DLE
Carlos Dunlap 278 5 13 29 13.1 Jonathan Fanene 141 1 1 8 5.5 Robert Geathers 235 4 2 11 5.9
CBS Sports also did a nice breakdown of just how much of an impact he had in his return to the team last week from a pressuring the QB standpoint:
The Dunlap factor delves deeper than sacks, forced fumbles or even his three QB hits. His presence makes all those around him better. It didn’t hurt that there was a backup left tackle inserted for Redskins starter Trent Williams so DE Michael Johnson could rack up three sacks and an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award, but the pressure differential was staggering.
Here’s a three-week comparison of Bengals’ QB hits/sacks:
If Dunlap can stay healthy and on the field longer, he could easily be one of the best DEs the Bengals have had in a very long time. Despite being utilized primarily as a pass-rusher, Dunlap can still be an elite NFL player in a now pass-happy league that will always require a great pass-rusher to have an adequate defense. The Bengals defense is more than adequate, and with the emergence of Dunlap, they too could soon be calling themselves elite.