Carlos Dunlap played his first complete game since Week 9 in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. He played in 40 of the Bengals' 66 defensive snaps and for the first time this season, he had a negative rating, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
At one time this season, Dunlap was ranked as the league's best 4-3 defensive end but a nagging hamstring injury has held him out through the Bengals' toughest stretch of games. According to the guys at PFF.com, he had an overall rating of -1.9 with a pass rush rating of -2.1. That's a pretty long way from the 2.6 he averaged throughout the first nine games of the season, including a 7.9 against Seattle in Week 8.
Here's a breakdown of four of Dunlap's first-half plays.
In the Rams first drive, Dunlap came in on a second-and-seven play. He lined up opposite of right tackle Harvey Dahl. Kellen Clemens was in shotgun and when the ball was snapped, Dunlap took an inside angle. Dahl handled Dunlap without any trouble. Dunlap didn't have any affect on the play whatsoever. Either way, Brandon Lloyd, Clemens' target, wasn't able to make the play, so no harm no foul.
On the very next play, Dunlap stayed in the game. It was third-and-seven but instead of throwing the ball, the Rams decided to give Steven Jackson a chance to get the first down. Danario Alexander, who was lined up wide right, came in motion and as the ball was snapped, he immediately hit Dunlap, taking him out of the play as Jackson came past him. Geno Atkins was able to get off his block and catch up to Jackson in the backfield, though. So, again, no harm, no foul.
In the second quarter, the Rams were on the Bengals' 41-yard line. It was third down with three yard to go for the first. Dunlap again was lined up opposite of Dahl. Clemens took the snap and Dunlap attempted to go outside. Dahl managed him well enough but Dunlap was definitely taken out of the play when tight end Lance Kendricks joined Dahl to double team Dunlap. Jonathan Fanene sacked Clemens as soon as he stepped up in the pocket, forcing the Rams to punt the ball away.
Later in the second quarter, during the Rams' last drive of the half, Dunlap stayed in throughout the entire series because the Rams had to pass to score. Dunlap was lined up opposite of Kendricks on a first-and-10 play on the Bengals' 15-yard line. Dunlap tried to bullrush Kendricks and push him back into Clemens. He succeeded in pushing Kendricks back but he wasn't really close to getting a sack. He did disrupt the play enough to cause Clemens to throw the ball away instead of hanging in the pocket for very much longer.
Dunlap finished the game with one tackle and one quarterback pressure. Regardless of how people feel he played, it's good to have him back. He is, by far, the team's best pass rushing defensive end and having him on the field is better than having him on the bench. Besides, it has to be tough to come back from an injury that has held him out for four of the last five games and be productive.
However, the last two games of the season are going to be tough and Dunlap will be needed. The Bengals need to win out and they could use Dunlap's help as a pass rusher to get them into the playoffs. Hopefully he's back to his normal self by Saturday, when the Bengals host the Cardinals.