CINCINNATI — An unhappy Carlos Dunlap sat down in front of local media on a Zoom call on Thursday afternoon. The two-time Pro Bowler was ready and willing to air out his frustrations ahead of Sunday's game against the Ravens.
The 31-year-old won't start in Baltimore. He found out about the demotion on a depth chart that was posted as part of Sunday's game plan.
"They just put a depth chart on the board," a frustrated Dunlap said. "They didn’t really talk to me."
Dunlap has made 102 regular-season starts in a row dating back to the 2013 season, excluding a two-game absence last season due to injury.
"It sounds like it's not going to be me in there," Dunlap said. "I think they want a different run stopper. I think I can give that to them."
"It just seems like this is what the coaches want. I don't know what the thought is, but evidently, focus on third down. So we've got to get them to third down with the young boys and do what I'm asked to do."
Carl Lawson will replace Dunlap in the starting lineup. Lawson has been better against the run this season, as has Sam Hubbard according to Pro Football Focus.
Lawson has a 10.3% run stop percentage, which ranks first among the Bengals' edge rushers according to PFF. Sam Hubbard (9%) isn't far behind.
Dunlap—who has been on the field for 15 more run snaps than Lawson—is third at 6.8%.
PFF is just one metric, but the data reinforces what we've seen this season. Lawson has been the Bengals' best edge rusher. He leads the team in sacks with 3.5. No one else on the roster has more than one. He's also gotten better against the run, which was a big reason why he wasn't an every down player in the past.
Hubbard's effort will never be questioned. He may not have the ceiling that Dunlap has, but he's been better against the run.
It's not like Dunlap isn't going to get snaps on Sunday. Even with the demotion, he'll likely be on the field for 55-60 percent of the Bengals' defensive snaps.
There's also a scenario where this maximizes his biggest strength. Instead of having him on the field for 70-75% of the snaps, he can focus on getting hitting opposing quarterbacks.
Dunlap doesn't have a sack this season. He has 81.5 in his career, which is just two shy of Eddie Edwards' franchise record (83.5).
The move should've been communicated with former Pro Bowler. Instead, the coaching staff and one of their most popular players weren't on the same page, which led to his comments on Thursday.
He's clearly frustrated by the decision, but communicating with him ahead of time could've saved the Bengals from answering plenty of questions about Dunlap, his role and his future in Cincinnati.
"I’m really trying to figure out the plan, it’s kind of frustrating," Dunlap said. "I would like to just prepare for Baltimore, but I got to prepare to figure out how to handle the madness that they’re doing."
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