Being a defensive player in the NFL can be a thankless job. The rules often change in favor of the offense and coordinators must find a way to navigate new developments. With the current trend towards calling more penalties, the defense is left wondering if a hit will draw a late flag and the ire of the league. Certain players get attention and some get overlooked from lack of media exposure. Carlos Dunlap is one of those players. The Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive end is the sack king.
Getting attention as a member of the Bengals’ defense is a hard thing to do. The 2015 season has been filled with enough highlight-reel material for a movie. The Bengals’ defensive unit has been gaining respect around the league as one of the hardest to face. Under the guidance of Paul Guenther, they have become an elite unit that causes problems for the opposition.
One of the standouts on the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense is Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap was one of the bright spots in the Bengals loss to Denver, Monday night. During that game, per ESPN stats, the Bengals had three sacks. They were all courtesy of Dunlap. He also added three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, to accentuate his domination. Those sacks have him at 13.5 for the year. That’s an “official” franchise record. But Dunlap was playing for more than the record.
“I wanted to lead the league, yeah. But I’d give up six of those for a bye. Six of those for a bye, man.”
Dunlap is tied for third in the league with Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Both are trailing J.J. Watt (14.5) and Khalil Mack (15.0). With the 13.5 sacks, Dunlap passed Eddie Edwards’ 1983 mark of 13.0. The unofficial Bengals record is 22.0, set by Coy Bacon in 1976 before sacks were officially recognized as an NFL statistic six years later.
Setting the record was bittersweet for Dunlap. He knows that the Bengals now need help to achieve that first round bye that is so coveted. Cincinnati needs one of two scenarios to play out, in order to get the AFC’s No. 2 seed. They need to beat the Ravens on Sunday and have the Broncos lose to the Chargers. If the Bengals lose, they need the Broncos to lose and the Chiefs to beat Oakland.
Dunlap’s sacks came at pivotal times in the game. His first sack came on the Broncos first drive, with the Bengals leading 7-0. Dunlap was able to grab Osweiler for a loss on second-and-nine. That stalled what seemed to be a game tying drive.
The biggest play of the first half came when the Broncos were driving, after building some momentum. On second-and-goal, from the Bengals 7-yard line, Dunlap put a beautiful move on Michael Schofield and tripped Osweiler for another sack. The play eventually caused the Broncos to settle for a field goal to end the half.
After being a reliable defensive end for years, Dunlap is finally getting the sack numbers that many knew he could put up. The snub as a Pro Bowl starter may have been part of his incentive to shine on Monday Night Football. Dunlap has shown an amazing improvement in getting to the quarterback and is still able to help secure the run defense.
Thankfully, Dunlap has been healthy this year. The return of Michael Johnson and Pat Sims has helped beef up a front line that’s one of the scariest in the league. That addition has helped free Dunlap to wreak havoc on the signal-callers that have become his targets.
Dunlap wasn’t pleased, while thinking about the Bengals needing help to get the bye.
“I’d rather control it myself than us needing help,” Dunlap commented. “That’s why I was out there trying to make every play I could, man.”
For now, Carlos Dunlap is the Cincinnati sack king.
[Feature Photo by Joe Mahoney/Associated Press]