Bengals fighting father time: Carlos Dunlap
Carlos Dunlap has been one of the most consistent performers for the Bengals in recent years. Churning out sacks and leading the defensive line, despite not grabbing the national headlines. Unfortunately, that is what happens to good players on bad teams.
That rang even more true last year when Dunlap hit the high point of his career, recording an 89.7 PFF grade and securing 10 sacks. That epitomizes Dunlap’s dedication to the cause. Refusing to give up, even when the ship was rapidly sinking around him.
Although it is only a four-game sample, Dunlap has been off the mark so far. His PFF grading currently stands at sub-60. As with Green, Dunlap tends to be the focus of opposition gameplans and while he has been quiet, the younger Carl Lawson has thrived on the opposite side.
The biggest issue for Dunlap appears to be his usage. Lou Anarumo and co. seem unwilling to let Dunlap focus on the most important downs. In the last two weeks, Dunlap’s snap count has been ahead of both other edge rushers, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson.
Even at age 31, he is seen as key to both the run and pass defense. Although it’s too soon to be used as a mere rotational piece, perhaps a better balance between the three’s snap count would tease more production from the defensive leader.
The Bengals are keenly aware of the need to improve their edge defense. That was highlighted by the visit of Shaq Barrett in the 2019 offseason. Barrett went on to record a league-leading 19.5 sacks for the Bucs and Bengals fans were left imagining what a fearful foursome they could have had.
The clear ascension plan is for Sam Hubbard to become the dependable edge defender Dunlap has been and Lawson to provide the pass-rushing juice on the other side. The heartening aspect is that Lawson has also flashed high-end run-stopping play, particularly in a dominating performance against an undermanned Eagles o-line.
Despite plenty of promise, I would expect the Bengals to bolster the position next year. If they feel they can put together a division challenging roster, a year-long “prove it” deal for a veteran could be the route taken. Adding one final piece to the puzzle could provide a pass rush the league would envy.