The Bengals had an up and down time between 2010 and 2019. They had some strong playoff appearances early on, but ultimately fell to the bottom of the NFL by 2019.
The whole way, defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been one of their biggest constants, and it is because of that effort that Pro Football Focus recognized him as one of the top 101 players of the decade at 89th overall.
One of the most underrated players of his generation, Carlos Dunlap has been a consistently excellent player in the NFL for the entire decade. Drafted in 2010, Dunlap has never had an overall PFF grade below 70.0. That comes on the back of nine straight seasons with 45 or more total pressures, topping out with 80 back in 2015 when he, along with most of the Bengals, enjoyed career seasons. Dunlap has been an impressive run defender and pass rusher, but he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because his best play falls just short of the top players at the position.
Bengals fans have been well acquainted with Dunlap’s talent. We’ve gotten a firsthand look at a very good career that doesn’t really show signs of slowing down anytime soon. He has been a key piece of Cincinnati’s defense since he exploded on the scene in 2010; setting the Bengals’ rookie record with 9.5 sacks.
A big reason that Dunlap hasn’t been as highly recognized is because he doesn’t always get home to the quarterback. Those pressures are impressive and have a great impact on the game, but casual fans and national media really gravitate towards sack numbers. Only having a single season with double-digit sacks won’t get much national recognition.
It is also unfortunate that unless it is J.J. Watt, those same fans and analysts don’t care about a defensive lineman’s batted passes stats. Dunlap has batted 58 passes over his career and he led the NFL in batted passes by a non-defensive back player with 38 from 2016 to 2019. Watt’s career high was 16 back in 2012, and Dunlap had set his high with 15 in 2016. It is an area that Bengals fans know contributes at, but no one else is talking about.
It really is a shame that Dunlap doesn’t get the the publicity he deserves. He has been a great locker room presence, leader and player for the Bengal for years now. Recognition like this from Pro Football Focus will help us look back and see past the box score for Dunlap when talking to people outside of Bengals fans or even fans that never got to see him play. He will easily go down as one of the best Bengals’ players of the decade and maybe even all-time.