When the Bengals drafted defensive end Carlos Dunlap with the 54th pick in the 2010 draft, it was widely believed that he would step in and instantly become a day-one starter--but it didn't quite work out that way. In fact, for almost all of Dunlap's career, his elusive relationship with a starting role has been a major theme. First it was experience holding him back, then veteran depth, and finally injuries.
But now, heading into his fourth year, it appears that his hard work is about to pay off. According to Geoff Hobson's latest OTA musings, Dunlap has lined up with the first-team during every practice so far in 2013.
Dunlap, who never moved Robert Geathers out of the starting lineup last year, has been working with the first group in the first seven OTAs. But he won't be impressed unless he's with the first group at next week's minicamp.
"Let's see what happens when it's mandatory," Dunlap said. "We've got all kinds of rookies playing everywhere, so let's see how it goes. Rob isn't just going to let me have it."
As Dunlap alludes to, we won't know for sure whether his switch is permanent or not until next week's mandatory minicamp, but the signs are encouraging. After flashing 9.5 sacks during his rookie season when he played a situational pass rushing role, it will be very interesting to see the kind of production he can manage as a full time starter. Dunlap only played in 601 snaps last season (compared to Michael Johnson's 870) but finished as the 9th-highest ranked 4-3 DE according to PFF.
Might this be the season Dunlap finally unseats longtime starter Robert Geathers?