While attention has primarily focused on Andre Smith and his proverbial benching against the San Diego Chargers (because he was believed to have violated a team rule), one of our readers pointed out that he wasn't the only one.
Entering Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers, defensive end Carlos Dunlap had started every game this year and played the bulk of every snap in the opening series during the first 11 games. Yet, against the San Diego Chargers, he was no where to be found when Cincinnati's starting defense jogged onto the field. Wallace Gilberry started the game at left defensive end and played the first six snaps during San Diego's opening possession.
With 11:16 remaining in the first quarter, Dunlap entered the game for the first time on third down with two yards to go at midfield. It was shades of 2010, '11 and '12 with Robert Geathers starting and Dunlap primarily playing a pass rushing role before he became a three-down defensive end this season.
We're not conjecturing why the Bengals started Gilberry over Dunlap (though with recent news regarding Smith, it's hard not to connect those dots).
Maybe it was Mike Zimmer's initial game-plan, but we can't really support that theory -- not when Dunlap is one of your best defenders on the field.
Plus, after missing the first six snaps of the game, Dunlap would go on to play 56 of the next 61 defensive snaps. This is after he played all but two snaps against the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens in week nine and 10 respectively -- he missed eight snaps against the Browns, but many of the team's starters were rotating out during Cleveland's final possession with Cincinnati capturing a 41-20 lead.