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NFL Draft

Carlos Dunlap Shines In Debut Despite Seahawks’ Struggles

  • The Draft Network
  • November 9, 2020
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Carlos Dunlap didn’t know the position he’d play with the Seattle Seahawks. After the 11th-year defensive end was traded before the NFL’s trade deadline after a contentious 2020 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, he knew he would have a big role in Seattle’s lacking pass-rush. When Dunlap was told that role would be as a LEO, he needed clarification—really an explanation.

A what?

This was the first time Dunlap, Cincinnati’s second-round pick out of the 2010 NFL Draft, heard of the position. You can’t blame him. LEO is fairly new, and the LEO defense is unique. Once head coach Pete Carroll explained exactly what Dunlap would be doing—playing a hybrid position that is not quite a defensive end but not quite a linebacker either—Dunlap was ready to take on his new tweener status.

"I feel like it's a great fit," he told reporters after officially becoming a Seahawk on a reworked deal. "These guys fly around. I've been an edge defender my whole career, I've been left end, been right end, been in the 4-3 style, and this is what we're doing here. I'm being asked to do what I've done my best football doing, so it's a win-win situation for me. I don't know how to explain it in any clearer terms, but this is definitely a win-win situation for me. I'm excited, excited and fired up to do what I do. With all the banners that they got up in here, they're used to being in the big games and being on the better side of the big games, and I want to compete with those guys and help them win those big games, whatever it takes."

The Seahawks have been without a significant pass rush all season, and Dunlap got his first reps against their toughest opponent yet, the Buffalo Bills, in a matchup featuring two teams sporting quarterbacks who have been in NFL MVP conversation. Josh Allen came in manning the 10th-best passing offense. 

Dunlap may be new to this specific position, but he’s been an efficient pass-rusher for the last decade-plus. He joined Seattle’s roster with 82.5 career sacks with at least 7.5 sacks in each of his last seven seasons. The fractured relationship between him and the Bengals’ organization resulted in less and less playing time, and Dunlap had just one sack through seven games before departing for Seattle.

He finished the 44-34 loss with five tackles (three for loss), one sack, and two quarterback hits. He had one big penalty on the goal line at the start of the fourth quarter that gave Buffalo a fresh set of downs which it converted to touchdown, taking a 34-20 lead. Despite the hiccup, Dunlap was nearly everywhere on every play.

Despite Seattle’s overall embarrassment on defense, Dunlap was a necessary spark. He’s the only thing that went right for the NFL’s worst defensive unit. Dunlap made an impact on his very first play from scrimmage and continued to show off his strength and speed as Seattle recorded a season-high seven sacks.

If this was the best defense the Seahawks have to offer, there isn’t much to fear or really any reason for them to sustain success. If this were a Super Bowl or simply playoff matchup, Seattle’s season would have ended. The unit gave up 420 total yards and 44 points. 

Dunlap was sought after as Seattle’s missing piece, and while his debut was successful, it says more about the unit’s ineffectiveness than Dunlap’s. He can still cement himself as a vital piece on this roster and collect his $3 million roster bonus if he remains with the team in 2021.

The Seahawks need to do more to live up to Dunlap’s expectations of being a championship team, because Dunlap has already shown, in just one game, he can live up to theirs.

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