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2017 Bengals Bold Prediction: Carlos Dunlap finishes as league leader in sacks

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Can Dunlap achieve a feat he’s never accomplished, and finish in the top three in the NFL in sacks this season?

Ever since being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Carlos Dunlap has been a productive pass rusher. He made that evident with 9.5 sacks in limited playing time during his rookie season. And since becoming a full-time starter in 2013, he has averaged more than nine sacks per season.

Despite being a good pass rusher, a Pro Bowler, and boasting 57 career sacks, which leads the entire 2010 draft class, Dunlap has never finished in the top three among the NFL’s sack leaders. Could that finally change in 2017?

Why this prediction is BOLD:

Last season Carlos Dunlap finished tied for 22nd in the NFL with 8.0 sacks. That’s a far cry from the top three – especially when you consider he finished with just more than half of the sacks of Vic Beasley’s league leading 15.5 sacks. In fact, Dunlap wasn’t even his own team’s sack leader – that honor went to Geno Atkins, who had 9.0 sacks last season.

In 2015 Dunlap finished fourth in sacks, and in 2014 Dunlap finished tied for 26th in sacks, with a familiar 8.0 sacks.

For Dunlap to finish in the top three, that means he needs to rack up more sacks than the league’s premier pass rushers, such as Vic Beasley, J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, and Chandler Jones, among others. Dunlap is a good pass rusher, but it’s just not reasonable to expect him to finish in the top three. That’s why, it’s a bold prediction to say he will finish among the top three.

Why this prediction is LIKELY:

In 2015 Dunlap finished just outside of the top three, among the league leaders in sacks. He accumulated 13.5 sacks that year, which put him a mere 1.0 sacks outside of the top three. This past season, that total of 13.5 would have been good enough for second.

To get big sack totals, a defensive player needs multiple things working in his favor. One thing he needs is an offense that is good enough to force the opposition to throw the ball. The Bengals offense struggled mightily last year, allowing opposing offenses to build and milk leads by running the ball. Without being forced into more passing situations, Dunlap’s opportunities for sacks were limited. The Bengals lost both Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green for stretches last year, and both are now healthy. The team also added John Ross into the mix, and added an elite running back prospect with Joe MIxon. Also working in the offense’s favor is Ken Zampese’s offense entering its second season. It took the Bengals a couple years before they really played well in Jay Gruden’s offense and Hue Jackson’s offense didn’t click immediately either. Year two should be a big step forward from last year for the offense. When the offense starts clicking, opposing teams will need to throw the football more often.

Another important ingredient is quality pass rushing teammates. When a player has other good pass rushers on his team, it curtails an offense’s ability to scheme for one good player. All indications are that the Bengals draft picks of Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis should help bring more pressure from the other side of the line, compared to what Michael Johnson has provided. Also, replacing Domata Peko with just about anybody would help the pass rush. Replacing Peko with Andrew Billilngs, in theory, should help it even more.

Two key ingredients that were missing last season, should be restored this year, allowing Dunlap’s sack totals to return to 2015 levels, if not better. Dunlap is a great pass rusher, and 2015 showed what he can do when the conditions are favorable. The conditions this year should be closer to 2015 than what we saw in 2016, allowing Dunlap to make a serious run as one of the top three leaders in sacks.

Poll

Will Carlos Dunlap finish in the top 3 in NFL in sacks?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Yes!!
    (126 votes)
  • 55%
    No, but will be pretty close.
    (201 votes)
  • 8%
    Not even close.
    (32 votes)
359 votes total Vote Now