Time to pay the bills.
There's no doubt that Andy Dalton has had a good run lately, preceding Cincinnati's 22-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins (I'd still argue that he didn't play poorly in that game, he just wasn't as good as the previous three games). During that run the Bengals have won four straight, including the three where Dalton submitted a historic stretch in regards to the franchise's best quarterbacks.
But one player having a great season, and expected to receive more attention with Geno Atkins being lost for the season, is Carlos Dunlap.
Actually, Dunlap is having his best season yet. No longer a situational pass rusher, Dunlap has significantly grown as a run defender making him one of the league's best all-around defensive ends. Graduation, might be the appropriate term. Heading into Thursday's game, Dunlap led the entire defensive line with 33 tackles. His 4.0 quarterback sacks is tied for second on the team with Wallace Gilberry (behind Atkins' six). Additionally Dunlap is the only defender with multiple forced fumbles with three (only two players in the NFL have more).
But it's the run defense that's graduating him to a great overall player. According to Pro Football Focus, Dunlap ranks as the league's best defensive end against the run among teams with a base 4-3 defense.
That's not to take away from Michael Johnson, who is quietly doing his own thing as a great all-around player. If not for Dunlap's season, Johnson's run defense would rank first among all defensive ends in 4-3 defenses. And Johnson has more quarterback hits and hurries than Dunlap. The only things seperating the two is that Dunlap is becoming more of a play-maker. Yet, Johnson is as steady as they come. This duo needs to stay together.
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