With Michael Johnson moving on to Tampa Bay, Carlos Dunlap’s pass rush production becomes all the more important to the Bengals’ defense.
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, the 25-year-old Dunlap has worked at Johnson’s old right defensive end spot in the offseason. Playing right defensive end means dealing with left tackles, who are usually known for their pass-blocking acumen. At his best, though, Dunlap is capable of giving even the league’s top tackles fits.
In his four NFL seasons, Dunlap has notched 27.5 sacks, including 7.5 in 2013, his first season as the starting left end. According to Bengals.com, it appears the club could play him at both end spots his year, perhaps with an eye on getting the right matchups.
“This is the only place I’ve played one side. I’m excited about being able to play both because it gives me different looks,” Dunlap told the club’s website.
Also of note: Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther told Hobson that Dunlap has “really improved” as a practice player.
“I told Carlos our best players have to be our hardest workers and he’s doing a good job. No question. Much improved. I’m happy where he’s at,” Guenther said, according to Bengals.com.
Just 25 years old, Dunlap could be capable of reaching a new level of performance. Any reports of better practice habits, even if just spring dispatches, can only be seen as positives. As a younger player, Dunlap’s approach to the game was something the club had wanted to see improved.
By the calendar, Dunlap is still relatively young, but he’s also a fifth-year veteran, one of the club’s more experienced players. He’s at a point of his career where the Bengals should be expecting him to do more, and he’s at a point where he should be capable of delivering. He’s certainly a player to watch this season.