In years past, a combined 94 snaps from Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap would’ve been achieved by the end of the third quarter during a single game. In 2020, it took them a full two games to reach that combined snap count.
It wasn’t a big deal in Week 5. The Cincinnati Bengals made Dunlap a third-down specialist against the Baltimore Ravens, and they had just gotten Atkins back from his shoulder injury. Fast forward a week to Sunday’s loss against the Indianapolis Colts, and now it’s something to seriously take note of.
Atkins and Dunlap have both been regulated to rotational pieces in a defense that they used to star in. We’ve known about Dunlap’s demotion for over a week now, but now Atkins’ playing time has been minimized in a similar way.
Tyler Dragon of Cincinnati.com is reporting that both players are upset about their roles being reduced.
According multiple sources, Atkins and Dunlap are frustrated with their lack of playing time. Atkins and Dunlap are miffed by the team’s defensive philosophy and approach. They have basically been demoted to third-down specialists.
For us on the outside, the current state of the defensive line made this revelation even more bewildering. Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, and Mike Daniels are all on injured reserve, yet players like Amani Bledsoe and newly-signed Xavier Williams were on the field first and more-often then the duo of Atkins and Dunlap.
Just as much confusion apparently exists inside the locker room. Dragon reports that the coaches did communicate with Atkins and Dunlap about the change in their playing time, but that has not gone particularly well with the players.
Multiple players inside the locker room are wondering why Dunlap and Atkins have been relegated to situational players. The two veterans have combined for 10 Pro Bowls.
This comes after an aforementioned loss that featured a defensive meltdown in just one quarter of play. The Bengals allowed 21-unanswered points to the Colts in the second quarter alone and gave up 7.2 yards per play on the day.
Dunlap even commented on a Bengals Instagram post to joke about the fact that he’s playing outside linebacker and how he’s “social distancing” from the field, seemingly a jab at his lack of playing time.
Such a plan would make more sense if the Bengals had the requisite complementary talent around Atkins and Dunlap on the defensive line. Instead, guys like Bledsoe, Williams, Andrew Brown and Kahlil McKenzie are playing more or just as much as two guys who are better than them.
The plan isn’t clear, and the results don’t back it up.