With over ten minutes remaining in the first quarter against the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez drilled wide receiver Patrick Turner with a trailing Leon Hall collapsing on the receiver just as the reception is completed. Carlos Dunlap, not rushing the quarterback but not exactly dropping into coverage either, shadowed the football to Turner. Sprinting behind the play when a single leg emerged from the pile of tackled bodies, contacting the defensive end's knee like a fastball being punished to deep left field. This play essentially ended Dunlap's preseason.
According to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Dunlap is expected to miss at least four weeks with a knee sprain, threatening his chances against the Baltimore Ravens during Cincinnati's regular season opener.
This isn't the first time Dunlap has suffered an injury in his career. In fact it's his third injury he's faced with his knees. During his rookie season, Dunlap emerged from preseason with a knee strain, missing the first two games that year. He missed every preseason game the following season in 2011 with another knee strain. Later that year he suffered a hamstring injury in the closing moments against the Tennessee Titans, missing four games that year -- three of them against the Pittsburgh Steelers (twice) and one against the Houston Texans, critical games.
Let's face it. Dunlap is a special talent. Despite missing four games in 2011, he still captured the team-lead with 29 quarterback hurries. His 13 hits on the quarterback (that didn't result in a quarterback sack) was second to rising star Geno Atkins. And during the second half of his rookie season, Dunlap recorded 9.5 quarterback sacks, falling one short of Ndamukong Suh's rookie mark. Like Atkins, Dunlap is a rising star in the NFL.
Yet we have to ask, is Dunlap now characterized with a question about durability? Will you hold your breath every time he's laying on the turf before lifting himself off the field after a play? Dunlap spent the offseason working out at Florida, adding weight to his frame to prevent a reoccurrence of the hamstring problems that plagued him last season. We're not sure if there's any way to prevent knee sprains, but it sure seems that they're happening an awful lot.