Carlos Dunlap is something of an enigma. The talented defensive end was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and burst onto the scene with nine and a half sacks as a rookie in just 12 games, including eight and a half in a five game span. Fans were as excited about his potential as they’ve been about defensive lineman for quite some time. His combination of size, strength, and quickness gave him a skillset that was had him pegged as a star-in-waiting.
The 2011 season threw a wrench into the works. Various nagging leg injuries, mostly the hamstring, held him to just 12 games, and only four and a half. He followed that up with six sacks in 2012, though he was once again distracted by aches and pains, and fans began to wonder if he could ever be counted on fully. Last season, he was mostly healthy, and ended the year with seven and a half sacks. More importantly, he looked more like he did during that rookie season, getting consistent pressure and pushing blockers around.
Going into the 2014 season, fans have good reason to be a bit nervous. With running mate Michael Johnson making his home elsewhere, the focus will be on Dunlap to recover the dominance of that five-game stretch four seasons ago. Physically, he has the ability to be among the league’s best. If he’s healthy, the sky’s the limit. The Bengals need him. With Johnson gone, Dunlap has to perform. He’s never gotten double-digit sacks, and has only once played in all 16 games. This season, maybe more than ever, Cincinnati need him to do both. He has looked the part of a star at times in the past, and fans need him to show he’s everything they thought he’d be.