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Carlos Dunlap among elite NFL edge defenders

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Carlos Dunlap is playing at a level that has him in the same conversation as guys like Von Miller and Robert Quinn.

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Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Bengals defense has had some issues through the first month of the season, but they’re still managing to be a great pass-rushing unit.

They’ve racked up nine sacks through four games, which tied for the eighth most of any NFL team. The frequent pressure the defensive line has produced is a big reason why Cincinnati is allowing the fifth-lowest completion percentage (57.6%) this season.

Everyone knows Geno Atkins is a big reason why as he’s one of the game’s best interior lineman. However, the man not getting enough credit for his impact is Carlos Dunlap, who has become one of the game’s best defensive ends.

In fact, Pro Football Focus ranks Dunlap as their No. 2 edge defender through the first four games of 2016. That includes defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers, and only Von Miller, the highest-paid defensive player in football, has a higher grade than Dunlap.

Dunlap just registered his highest grade of the season in Thursday’s win over the Dolphins, not to mention being tied with A.J. Green as the top performer of any player from that game.

DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Geno Atkins both finished with season-high grades and were constantly in the Dolphins backfield on passing plays. Dunlap compiled seven pressures (two sacks, one hit, four hurries) and batted two of Tannehill’s passes, while Atkins picked up six of his own, including at 11:15 when he beat guard Billy Turner quickly and cleanly inside for a drive-ending sack.

Dunlap was doing it all on Thursday as he has been all season, so it’s no surprise seeing him ranked so highly in PFF’s ratings. On this play, Dunlap actually looks like he’s expecting a pass and starts to drop into coverage, something the Bengals have been doing more of with him, but he recovers to beat his man and stuff Jay Ajayi.

On this play, Dunlap does a beautiful swim move to get his long arms into the ball to stri pit from Ryan Tannehill.

Here, Dunlap starts to rush up field, but as he gets chipped by the running back, he’s aware enough to see the pass could go to the back, so he watches the eyes of Tannehill and positions himself to bat down the pass.

And on this play, Dunlap just blows by two Dolphins blockers to take Tannehill down.

Through one-quarter of the season, Dunlap now has 18 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 5 passes defended. All of this shows just how important Dunlap is to the Bengals’ defense, and why he should be getting Pro Bowl and All-Pro consideration if he keeps this up.