It was a foregone conclusion before it even happened that Ndamukong Suh would win the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. He earned 48 of the 50 total votes. After all, the Detroit Lion rookie recorded 6.5 quarterback sacks through his first seven career NFL games. Additionally, Suh was voted to the Pro Bowl and named to the AP All-Pro Team. There's no question about it. Suh had a sensational year.
But we have to wonder what would have happened if defensive end Carlos Dunlap had played a full 16-game season. Now, this isn't a slam on the Bengals coaching staff, who left Dunlap off the team's 45-man game day roster during four of the first five games of the year. All reports and quotes tend to point towards Dunlap's slow adjustment from the college game of superior athletes to a professional game that demands a superior work ethic. Eventually, he caught on.
Antwan Odom's four-game suspension and injuries eventually allowed Dunlap more playing time, averaging 26.9 snaps/game in the final eight games of the year. And during those final eight games, Dunlap recorded 9.5 quarterback sacks, an additional 11 quarterback pressures, knocking the quarterback down three times (excluding the QB sacks). That doesn't include three passed batted down at the line of scrimmage or 18 total stops (an offensive play that's considered a failure, like failing to pick up a first down on third-and-two, or posting a quarterback sack).
As a result, Dunlap was named to the PFW/PFWoA All-Rookie Team.
Yet, we can't help but wonder what would have happened if Dunlap played a full season.