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A look at left defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is awesome

Cincinnati Bengals v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s Friday night folks and it also happens to be my late mother’s birthday. Won’t you waste a little time with me watching tape of Carlos Dunlap?

First off, and it’s a bit foolish for me to write this as Pete Carroll is infinitely more qualified to make this decision and actually does make this decision, I presume, but Dunlap is not really a LEO. Someone asked Carroll during a press conference whether Dunlap would play LEO, and Carroll said yes and mentioned how Benson Mayowa would benefit from the rest. But, thing is …

Carlos Dunlap is and has always been a big end. He doesn’t fly around the blindside. He collapses from the front side. Football fans likely remember the excellent Bengals defensive line of Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko and Carlos Dunlap. Johnson departed for Tampa for a season, but for the most part, those four played together for most of a decade. A decade of exceptional defensive line play wasted, it would turn out.

I decided to watch tape of Dunlap from Week 17 of last year. Week 17 of last year is the latest tape which is likely not marred by any internal disputes with coach or coordinator. It’s a little less recent, and maybe Dunlap up and became an old man in the offseason. I certainly feel like I did. But, given Dunlap’s athletic profile, he should age pretty gracefully. Guys don’t shrink in their 30s. Power, leverage and size age gracefully.

This likely was a great trade. Let’s just get that out of the way. Now let’s have fun seeing why it was a great trade, what Dunlap does so well, and why I think he will age gracefully. Come with me, and you’ll be, in a wooorld of pure domination defenestration liquefaction liquification.

This tackle for a loss is recorded as a sack for some unknown reason. Dunlap’s not fast but his length gives him good functional closing ability. If I haven’t made it clear enough yet, he’s 96 the left defensive end. Here he looks like K.J. Wright.

Or, maybe even more correctly, Thabo Sefolosha. He’s twitchy, engaged, lean, hungry for the play, quick into his first step, and much closer than he seems. (Admittedly, you may not remember Thabo as he played for a team that does not exist. Think: Vincent Askew but undead*.)


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Here he forces an interception. That he does, inarguably does, tells us a bit why individual stats of this type do not work well in American football. Not every pass rusher as close to Mayfield would actually pressure Mayfield. Dunlap, who is towering at a legit 6’6”, and has a nearly 35” reach, does. But I dare you to codify that or teach it to a machine.

Cincy’s defensive coordinator is Lou Anarumo, who Carlos Dunlap said is schematically similar to Mike Zimmer. Which means that at least in 2019 Dunlap was doing what he’s done, and what he should do in Seattle. Dunlap and Wright should be able to set wonderful complementary edges together and do a number on the outside run game. That should help against San Francisco and son of oni Kyle Shanahan.

Here we see Dunlap dropping into coverage. He’ll probably do this in Seattle too. Did you know that while living on the island of Ibiza Nico rode her bicycle to buy pot one morning and mid-ride fell off suffering a cerebral hemorrhage she later died from? Sorry I had to quickly change the track because her abhorrent version of “The End” came on and it jogged my memory. Weird scenes inside the gold mine.

Please do not drop Dunlap into coverage, Ken Norton.

Actually, this time it works. Mayfield’s pressured, and when he attempts to reset and find a throwing lane, there’s human X Carlos Dunlap staring right back at him. Sack. If a lineman must be put into underneath coverage, Dunlap’s game. He has two career picks and two career interception return touchdowns.


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Here’s a strip sack from the blind side. Guy’s nimble, quick on his feet and just quick, but with a speed curve like Toad in Mario Kart.

Here he stays strong and upright in deep traffic avenging mankind for Mayfield’s awful commercials with a lot of help from Sam Hubbard. Good looking young player, that Hubbard. And a smile like a slightly punchy senator, too.

Dunlap shouldn’t be available. We endured the rise of Sean McVay, I guess it’s only fair we reap some of the spoils after his flunkies screw up a few franchises. Dunlap should have retired a Bengal. Jesus Google Docs grammar check is beyond awful! I should change it to “Dunlap should have retired to Bengal,” huh? Is that so!? I didn’t know the linguists who developed this software included the person who asked “How is babby formed?”!

I told you it was my mom’s birthday.

Right now, if he’s good as he was, Dunlap is probably the best non-Bobby player on this defense until Jamal Adams returns. No Bobbys of any kind—I’m not having that conversation. Dunlap plays a premium position well. He can, mind you he can, set an all but impassable edge. He’s super engaged reacting correctly to gain even slight advantages of spacing and/or positioning. Though he tends to play front side he’s gotta Lennox Lewis jab to pop balls free. Dunlap has 20 for his career and ranks 10th in forced fumbles among active players.

Dunlap’s sacks are not vaporware. One does not need a degree in machine learning to understand how they help his team. He’s not liquid pass rush but he’s way too good to be had for free. Google wishes me to write “He’s not a liquid pass rush …” The other day it attempted to convince me “bounding” was not a word. Yeah, not at all scary, this technology which shrinks vocabulary while working to purge naturalness from language.

Dunlap is days older than Von Miller. That seems impossible but it’s true. There isn’t a perfect athletic comparison for Dunlap, but there are quite a few players a little bit like him. He’s wiry like Jason Taylor but bigger and not nearly so explosive. He’s got power moves and footwork but he’s no Reggie White. Not close. Something about him reminds me of Charles Haley most of all but Haley burned bright and, well, watch this. But, as it turns out, he actually compares to Jason Pierre-Paul surprisingly well. If that’s true, and it’s sort of true let’s say it’s sort of true, their styles of play have diverged greatly though they have similar tools like Brook and Robin Lopez. Dunlap is Robin in his career year every year. He’s a grinder.

(Google: “Dunlap is Robin in his career every year.” Of course that’s what I meant! Oh, Google!)

Dunlap played for Marvin Lewis much of his career. Lewis earned his break by being the defensive coordinator for the Ravens team which won Brian Billick a Super Bowl. He won the Super Bowl, basically.

Lewis assembled a big ass line backed by two big ass outside linebackers and Ray Lewis. Except the right defensive end was a little guy. I know this because that small end was Michael McCrary, who Dennis Erickson ran out of town for not being fat enough. McCrary was cause for hope in a mid-90s era of the Seahawks which to a fan felt like “River of Deceit” on endless unsilenceable loop.

Dunlap joins a front seven which follows this basic formula.

Oversized, pass rush and cover SLB—Bobby Wagner—Coverage/Range/Blitzing (smallish) WLB

Medium-slight, quick, corner-turning DE/OLB tweener—Huge space eater who gets into passing lanes—Single gap run stuffer—Big end

And he should be the new big end. But maybe Seattle wants to replace Benson Mayowa. Especially given his responsibilities, Mayowa isn’t producing enough as a pass rusher. One solution is to give his responsibilities to Dunlap. L.J. Collier survives losing too many snaps and benefits from an upgraded partner. The problem with that, Dunlap is likely less productive than he would be otherwise, and insufficient as he may be, benching Mayowa to start Dunlap is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

In the past, Seattle worked to create three levels of pass rush. The deepest pass rusher, which typically but did not always attack from the blind side, the frontside pressure which typically but did not always arrive from the LDT or LDE, and interior push. This isn’t a perfect play to use as an example but it’s a fun play so let’s use this fun play to show how Seattle’s pass rush has worked in the past.

Ah phooey the gif sucks. Here’s the video.

Someone needs to turn the corner and so far that has been and that has not been Benson Mayowa. Dunlap is certainly more Michael Bennett than he is Cliff Avril. There’s really no proper Bruce Irvin. Man did Seattle have some pass rushers! And Brandon Mebane may be any number of guys because by 2015 Brandon Mebane was 30, and at 30 Mebane played a lot like Poona Ford.

I’m just saying he should play big end. And that he’s good. Good night one and all.

*I speedily double checked to see if Vincent Askew is alive and well. He is.