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Bengals Defensive End Carlos Dunlap Looking To Be The Starter

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The Bengals took a chance in the 2010 NFL Draft when they selected Carlos Dunlap in the second round. Fresh off of a DUI at the University of Florida and a suspension from the SEC Championship Game, Dunlap watched his draft stock plummet. It was partly due to his off the field issues, but more largely due to a concern--a single word--that scouts and experts freely throw around every draft night--his motor. Presently, a player's motor has almost become more important that the player's skill set. Teams want the next Ray Lewis, not the next Albert Haynesworth, and in the eyes of NFL front offices, that distinction has everything to do with the player's motivation. If the player isn't willing to play hard, then regardless of his talent level, he still won't help the team. The label is ugly and shameful, but not easily done away with.

Carlos Dunlap, however, refused to let it stick. In his rookie season, playing only 27% of the defensive snaps, Dunlap had 9.5 sacks. In 2011, his playing time increased to around 40% of the snaps, and although he was hampered my injuries, missing four games, he still managed to compile 4.5 sacks.

Dunlap has proven he can produce, and motor questions should be a thing of the past. But if the naysayers do still exist, and they surely do, Dunlap hopes to finally shut them up once and for all in 2012. According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Carlos Dunlap plans to start at defensive end.

Of the potential opportunity, he said:

"I'm looking to start," Dunlap said Monday before his workout at Paul Brown Stadium. "I know Uncle Geathers isn't going to give it away. That's why I have to earn it in training camp."

Paul Dehner Jr. of CBS Rapid Reports also reports that Dunlap is especially motivated this season. He writes:

DE Carlos Dunlap started one game last season, entering the rotation in relief primarily as a pass-rush specialist for the Bengals. His goal for 2012 is to flip that model. "Hopefully, (the rotation) is leaning toward me getting more reps and then getting the relief, rather than me doing the relieving," he said. "That's my motivation this offseason."

"Uncle Geathers", of course being long time Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers, has been a solid contributor for Cincinnati since 2004. Geathers is consistent but not flashy. His strength is as a run stopper, not as a pass rusher, and he compiled only 2.5 sacks last season. In obvious passing downs, he was replaced by the better pass rusher Dunlap. That means that if Dunlap is to start, then he must be consistent, not only in the run game, but also health wise. Dunlap more than anyone realizes this, and according to Hobson, has spent most of his offseason time getting himself in game shape.

In an effort not to repeat the hamstring issues of last season, Dunlap chose to get right into the weight room shortly at the end of the season instead of going back to the University of Florida. He says he's leaned up his 6-6 frame to 283 pounds.

Racking up 14 sacks in two seasons of limited playing time is nothing to scoff at, and if healthy, that production should only increase. However, Paul Dehner Jr. writes that Dunlap wouldn't consider himself an elite pass rusher just yet.

"I still haven't broken that 10-(sack) barrier yet, so I can't put myself in the same category until I've done that," said Dunlap, who had 9.5 sacks in 2010. "I haven't done that yet. In order to (be elite) you have to do what they're doing."

Dunlap understands that he isn't even a starter, let alone an elite player. Geathers is consistent, dependable, and, as of now, the job is his. But the lean, 23 year old Dunlap is coming with guns blazing for that starting spot, and he's not at all shying away from a tough training camp competition. I don't think too many people are questioning his motor now.