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Top 50 Bengals of all time: Nos. 35-31, youth is served

Defensive linemen pave the way in this iteration of our top 50 Cincinnati Bengals players in the team’s 50 year history.

Palmer after draft Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have been regular visitors to the playoffs during the past decade, and many of the below names have played a big role in getting them there. Some of them still hope to help the Bengals take the next step and win a Super Bowl.

Next up in our ranking of the top 50 Bengals of all time are the players ranked between 35 and 31.

35. Carlos Dunlap, Defensive line

The Bengals drafted Dunlap in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the 54th overall pick. Although he did not see much playing time early in the season, Dunlap received more playing time as the year progressed due to several injuries on the defensive line. He finished the season as the team leader with 9.5 sacks, despite playing in just 12 games. The 9.5 sacks were also the most by a rookie in team history.

Dunlap recorded 4.5 sacks in 2011 and followed that up in 2012 with 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 1 interception. In 2013 he registered had 7.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. In 2014, he made 40 solo tackles, 26 assists, 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Dunlap had a breakout season in 2015, recording a career-best 13.5 sacks and earning his first Pro Bowl invitation. He was ranked 70th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.

In 2016, he started all 16 games, recorded 49 tackles, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, and 15 passes defensed and earned his second Pro Bowl bid. His 15 passes defensed were tied for eighth in the league and were the most by any non-defensive back. Dunlap is in the Bengals’ long-term plans and will hopefully play a role in future playoff wins.

34. Geno Atkins, Defensive line

Atkins was drafted by the Bengals in the fourth round (120th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. In just his second season, Atkins led Cincinnati in sacks with 7.5 and helped propel the team to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance. In the 2011 season, he was tied for highest number of sacks by a defensive tackle with Oakland's Tommy Kelly and was named to his first Pro Bowl.

In 2012, Atkins recorded 53 tackles, forced 4 fumbles and set a franchise record with 12.5 sacks. He was selected as a starter in the Pro Bowl as the Bengals made the playoffs for the second straight year and was regarded as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. In 2013, Atkins had six sacks in only nine games before a torn ACL ended his season.

From 2014 to 2016, Atkins started all 16 games each season, though the 2014 season wasn’t his finest as he worked his way back from the torn ACL. Atkins registered only three sacks that year, but his sack totals were back up to 11 in 2015 and nine in 2016. Atkins earned three straight Pro Bowl invitations in the process and was named first-team All Pro in 2015 and was ranked 29th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016. On the 2017 rendition of the list, Atkins was ranked No. 68, which was way too low considering how impressive he is and that he is one of the best three players at his position in the NFL. Atkins should continue to make an impact for the Bengals for many years to come, and like Dunlap hopefully will play a role in many playoff wins in the future.

33. Carson Palmer, Quarterback

Unlike most quarterbacks drafted with the first overall pick, Palmer did not play at all during his rookie season in 2003. Instead, he learned the position under head coach Marvin Lewis and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and behind veteran quarterback Jon Kitna. Palmer started 13 games in the 2004 season and the Bengals finished at 8-8.

In 2005, Palmer helped the Bengals end 15 years of futility by notching their first winning season since 1990 and winning the AFC North division with a record of 11-5. During the year, Palmer threw a league-high 32 touchdown passes, led the league in completion percentage and became the first Bengals quarterback to finish with a quarterback rating over 100. He also tied Peyton Manning for most consecutive games, nine, with a triple-digit quarterback rating.

On January 8, 2006, the Bengals met their division rival, Pittsburgh, in the first round of the AFC playoffs at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. On the Bengals' first pass play, Palmer threw a 66-yard completion to rookie receiver Chris Henry. It was the longest completion in Bengals playoff history. After Palmer released the pass, he was hit by Steelers’ defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen and sustained a severe knee injury. What had the potential to be a deep playoff run by the Bengals ended in the wild card round of the playoffs.

Miraculously, Palmer returned from his injury in time for the 2006 preseason and ended up starting all 16 of the Bengals' regular season games. He eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career, finishing with a franchise record 4,035 passing yards with 28 touchdowns, only 13 interceptions and a 93.9 passer rating. Palmer also made the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row, the first Bengals’ quarterback to do so since Boomer Esiason in 1988 and 1989. Despite his best efforts, Cincinnati slipped to 8–8 in 2006 and failed to make the playoffs due to a game 16 loss against the Steelers.

Palmer finished the 2007 season, which saw the Bengals finish 7-9, with 376 completions for 4,131 yards, both Bengals’ franchise records, and 26 touchdowns, with 20 interceptions. His 20 interceptions were a career high.

In 2008, injuries limited Palmer to only four games and the Bengals slipped to 4-11-1. Palmer finished the 2009 season with a 60.5 completion percentage, 3,094 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a passer rating of 83.6. The Bengals once again won the AFC North with a record of 10-6.

2010 proved to be Palmer’s final year in a Bengals uniform. Although he finished with a 61.8 completion percentage, 3,971 yards passing, 26 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and a passer rating of 82.4, the Bengals won only four games.

Palmer still holds the following Bengals franchise records:

  • Most completions, season: 373 (2007)
  • Most pass attempts, season: 586 (2010; tied with Andy Dalton)
  • Most pass attempts, playoffs: 166
  • Most pass attempts, playoff season: 77 (in 1981)
  • Highest completion percentage, career (min. 200 attempts): 62.9%
  • First Bengals quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season (twice; 2006–2007)
  • Most 400+ yard passing games, career: 3
  • Most 300+ yard passing games, season: 5 (2007; tied with Boomer Esiason, 1987; and Andy Dalton, 2013)
  • Most touchdown passes, game: 6 (2007-09-16 at CLE)
  • Most consecutive games with a passer rating over 100: 9
  • Most game winning drives, season: 5 (tied with Jeff Blake)

Although his exit from Cincinnati was far from ideal, it worked out for both parties and Palmer remains one of the greatest Bengals of all time.

32. Jim Breech, kicker

In his 14 NFL seasons, Breech made 243 of 340 field goals (71.4%), 517 of 539 extra points (95.9%), and scored 1,246 total points, 1,151 of which came with the Bengals and represent a franchise record. He ranks second all-time after scoring in 186 consecutive games, and set an NFL record by making nine of nine field goals in overtime.

Breech played in nine postseason games during his career and missed just two field goals out of 11 attempts. He never missed an extra point. Breech played in Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XXIII and was perfect in both games. In Super Bowl XXIII, Breech kicked three field goals and scored 10 of Cincinnati's 16 points in the game. His third field goal gave the Bengals a 16-13 lead over the 49ers with just 3:10 left in the game and had him on course to becoming the first kicker ever to win the Super Bowl MVP award. However, the 49ers ended that chance by driving 92 yards and scoring the winning touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game.

31. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Wide receiver

The Bengals drafted Houshmandzadeh with the 204th overall selection in the seventh round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Houshmandzadeh recorded only 21 receptions for 228 yards in his rookie season, while also being used to return punts and kickoffs. His most notable accomplishment came in a game against the Cleveland Browns in which he set a franchise record with 126 punt return yards.

Houshmandzadeh missed almost all of the 2003 season with a severe hamstring injury. In 2004, he bounced back by recording 73 receptions for 978 yards and four touchdowns. He and Chad Johnson soon earned recognition for being among the NFL's most exciting receiving tandems (more on Johnson later).

Early in the 2005 season, Houshmandzadeh suffered an injury to his right hand, which limited him to only 14 games. Still, he pulled in 78 receptions for 956 yards and seven touchdowns. In the 2006 season, he battled a recurring minor foot injury that kept him out of the first two games of the regular season. Nevertheless, he finished the season with 90 receptions for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns, all career highs. His 90 receptions and nine touchdown catches led all Bengals receivers. He and Johnson became the first Bengals teammates ever to each record over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.

Houshmandzadeh finished the 2007 season with a franchise record 112 receptions for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 112 catches tied him with Wes Welker for the most in the NFL. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. In 2008, his last with the Bengals. Houshmandzadeh had 92 catches for 904 yards and four touchdowns. He currently sits eighth on the Bengals’ career receptions ranking list.