The Bengals' defense finished as the NFL's worst team when it came to sacking quarterbacks in 2014.
That's easily been the biggest improvement in this year's team and it's a big reason why the Bengals are 6-0 going into their bye week. After getting just 20 sacks in 16 games last year, Cincinnati is already up to 17 through six games this season, and a big reason why is Carlos Dunlap.
Now in his sixth NFL season, Dunlap is on pace for a career year with 6.5 sacks through six games after never reaching double-digit sacks in his first five seasons. He picked up 1.5 sacks on Sunday in a 34-21 win over the Bills with his half sack coming late in the second half, shared with Brandon Thompson.
On the play, Dunlap went too far up the field and allowed EJ Manuel a lane to run, but Dunlap recovered very quickly and took Manuel down before he got back to the line of scrimmage.
Dunlap's quickness and athleticism are what make him such a special player. Those skills were on display in the third quarter when Dunlap read Manuel's eyes and batted down his pass with relative ease:
But Dunlap's best play of the game came on Buffalo's final offensive drive. Trailing by two scores with two minutes to go, Dunlap embarrassed Cyrus Kouandjio to take down Manuel as soon as he completed his dropback.
Here, Dunlap impressively breaks Kouandjio's ankles before bulldozing over Manuel.
Sunday's 1.5 sacks were enough to make Dunlap the NFL's leader in sacks, a full sack ahead of Packers linebacker Julius Peppers and Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins at 5.5. At his current pace, Dunlap will finish this season with 19 sacks, 3.5 shy of Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 in a single season.
The Bengals' single-season sack leader is defensive end Eddie Edwards who had 13 takedowns in the 1983 season. Dunlap is on pace to break that by Week 12 against a Rams offensive line that will be ripe for him to get several sacks in that game.
Whatever Dunlap does the rest of the season, there's no denying he's been one of, if not the best defensive end in football over the first six weeks.