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Carlos Dunlap loses starting spot; isn’t pleased with how he learned of demotion

Dunlap apparently wasn’t told of his benching.

NFL: SEP 27 Bengals at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since the 2013 season, Carlos Dunlap has played 114 games for the Cincinnati Bengals. For 113 of them, he was a starter. He put together a streak of 102 consecutive starts in that timeframe as well, but that streak appears to be ending.

Dunlap told reporters on Thursday afternoon that he will not start on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. He’s essentially switching roles with Carl Lawson and will become a pass-rushing specialist on third down.

That’s just one bit of the news. The other is that Dunlap apparently wasn’t told ahead of time by the coaches before seeing his demotion on the depth chart.

Per Tyler Dragon of Cincinnati.com, Dunlap’s name was replaced by Lawson’s on the official depth chart but is still considered a starter in certain packages.

The start of 2020 has not been great for Dunlap. He’s totaled just nine pressures on 128 pass-rushing snaps and has yet to record a sack. Per Pro Football Focus, Dunlap is the Bengals’ lowest-graded edge rusher with a subpar 55.4 and also poses the lowest run defense grade of the bunch with a 57.8.

Benching Dunlap only makes sense if there’s a better option, and considering Lawson is playing the best of Cincinnati’s four edge rushers, promoting him over Dunlap is logical. Lawson has been the Bengals’ most consistent pass-rusher on a defensive line that’s been without Geno Atkins. He’s also been a better run defender, which is why Dunlap speculated he was benched.

The decision is justified; the issue is how it was executed. If head coach Zac Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo didn’t communicate the decision with Dunlap before he found out on his own, then Taylor and/or Anarumo messed up big time. That’s not how you treat an 11-year veteran who will probably go down as the franchise’s best edge rusher of all-time.

Hopefully, Dunlap and the coaching staff can remedy this internal dispute and move on. Dunlap playing less may have a positive impact on his production as well.

If not, it’s looking more likely that Dunlap will be out the door after this season.