The National Football League currently has an obsession with a few players, none maybe more so than defensive lineman J.J. Watt. However, lost in the shuffle of the attention given to the Houston Texans' All-Pro are certain other defensive ends who exemplify consistency and bring constant matchup nightmares.
One of those players is Cincinnati Bengals defensive end, Carlos Dunlap. After years of being a solid, all-around defensive end, yet never truly shining in the quarterback sack column, it's officially time to give a big tip of the cap to the gigantic edge player. Even though he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl this year, (making it only as a first alternate) Dunlap has shown an improvement on getting to the passer, while continuing to aid in the run defense.
Monday night provided one of those odd instances where certain statistical disparities didn't wholly tell the story. One of which was the Bengals getting one more quarterback sack than the Broncos, basically all due to Dunlap. Entering the game, Dunlap had an impressive 10.5 quarterback sacks and racked up another three on the evening.
With 13.5 on the year, Dunlap has officially passed Eddie Edwards as the team's single-season sack leader. Edwards set the franchise mark back in 1983, marking an impressive run through the early and mid-1980s. With so many NFL players garnering high sack numbers in the 32 years since Edwards' franchise record-setting mark, it's a little hard to believe it has taken so long for a Bengals player to break the mark, but Dunlap has officially done it. As Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com noted, Coy Bacon's 22 sacks actually hold the record, but came before sacks were an officially tracked NFL stat.
Past players like James Francis, Alfred Williams and Dan Wilkinson flirted with the team record, while current linemen Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins also came close, but Dunlap was the one to break it. It's just another mark on a well-rounded resume that also includes 51 total tackles, two blocked field goals and two forced fumbles in 2015.
Dunlap's first sack of Brock Osweiler on Sunday came on Denver's first offensive possession in the first quarter. On the seventh play of an eventual nine-play drive, Dunlap dumped the fourth-year quarterback on second and nine to stall the drive with the Bengals up 7-0.
Carlos Dunlap with the sack on second down... https://t.co/2pmXW8ErjL— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 29, 2015
The Broncos were marching for a touchdown when Dunlap's second sack came with just over a minute to play in the half, the sacks is part of what caused the Broncos to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown. And, as his other sacks had stalled Broncos drives earlier in the evening, Dunlap's wrap-up of Osweiler midway through the third quarter briefly cut through the momentum Denver was building in the second half, leading to a punt.
While Dunlap has been a pillar of consistency and health in his six-year career, he has been greatly aided by a bolstering of the defensive line this year. Geno Atkins has come back strong, getting 10 sacks in 2015, while the returns of Michael Johnson and Pat Sims have also aided the rotation up front. While Dunlap rarely takes a breather, he's benefitting from his teammates' respective performances and roles on the line.
Perhaps the best news after a game that seemed to be such a gut punch to Bengals fans? Dunlap signed a long-term deal before the 2013 season, locking him up through 2018, keeping himself, Atkins and Johnson together for the next handful of years.