Bengals' Dunlap Not Done By Any Stretch

Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record of 22.5 sacks is safe for another season, at least, after Carlos Dunlap finished 2015 with a career-high 13.5 sacks.

Carlos Dunlap did not break the NFL single-season sack record, but the Bengals' defensive end knew he was in for a big 2015 season when he made the preseason proclamation that the record would be under siege by none other than himself.

Former New York Giants end Michael Strahan's record of 22.5 is safe for another season, at least, after Dunlap came in  with a career-high 13.5 sacks, good enough to break the NFL's recognized team record of 13 set by end Eddie Edwards in 1983.

Sacks have been an official NFL statistic since 1982. Numbers compiled before that year are not officially recognized by the league. The league's unendorsed Bengals single-season sacks record is 22, set by end Coy Bacon in 1976. So, Dunlap will have to settle for second on the single-season list, for now.

There's always next season.

Dunlap’s emergence as a Bengals key player and leader has been gradual but steady. There is every reason to believe more sensational numbers are in the offing, barring injury. The former Florida Gator had barely turned 21 years old when the Bengals drafted him in the second round in 2010.

Asked to compare the Dunlap of 2015 with the Dunlap of 2010, head coach Marvin Lewis said: “He does what we want to see much more often. He’s matured as a man and as a player. He tries to do things the right way, and that’s been key for him."

Dunlap, named the Bengals' Man of the Year for 2015, had one more game to pad his numbers after recording a career-high three sacks Week 16 at Denver, but he did not get another one. His performance against the Broncos, however, was the first three-sack game by a Bengal since linebacker Vincent Rey had three in Game 10 of the 2013 season.

Dunlap's 49 career sacks moves him up to fourth-most in Bengals history, ahead of end Justin Smith (43.5), now in fifth. End Eddie Edwards (83.5) is the franchise leader. Dunlap needs 35 to catch him. End Ross Browner, third all-time with 59 sacks, is the next Bengals great on the list for Dunlap to overtake. Linebacker Reggie Williams (62.5) ranks second.

Dunlap’s 13.5 sacks ranked fourth in the NFL last season, third in the AFC. He tied for 140th all-time in one NFL season, in case you were wondering.

Houston end J.J. Watt led the league last season with 17.5 sacks, followed by Oakland’s Khalil Mack (15.0) and Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah (14.5). Dunlap’s fourth-place NFL rank is the best-ever by a Bengal. The previous high was tied for sixth by defensive tackle Geno Atkins (12.5) in 2012. The previous best Bengals AFC finish was fourth by Atkins that same year.

The athletic 6-foot-6, 280-pound Dunlap has a big wingspan. Coupled with his size and speed, he's a naturally gifted playmaker, with statistics to bear it out. And it's not just sacks. Dunlap excels not only on pass pressure, but as a downfield pursuer trailing runs and screen passes, and as a kick blocker on special teams.

Dunlap showed up everywhere on the stat sheet in his sixth season in 2015. He led the team in total quarterback hits (31) and blocked kicks (two, both field goals). He ranked second in total tackles-for-loss (16). He led the defensive line in tackles (55). He ranked second in forced fumbles (two) and had one fumble recovery.

His career totals of 12 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries are NFL highs for players on the Bengals' season-ending roster. He was one of only two players to block two field goals in 2015. End Quinton Dial of San Francisco was the other.

In 2014, Dunlap led the Bengals in sacks (8.0), tackles-for-loss (17), QB hits (27), forced fumbles (two) and combined fumbles forced and recovered (three). He led the D-line in tackles (66), a personal career first, and also led the line in passes defensed (five). He has scored two career touchdowns, on a 35-yard fumble return and a 14-yard interception return.

Still just age 27 on Feb. 28, Dunlap earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2015. He's proven durable, playing in all 16 games the past two seasons and missing just one game in 2013. He was re-signed by the Bengals in July 2013 to a six-year, $40 million contract, so he's expected to have at least three more seasons to add to his already impressive career totals.


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