As the Seahawks returned to action after a week off in early November, Carlos Dunlap needed to relax. Playing the first year of a two-year contract signed with the team in March, the pass veteran didn’t feel like he was being used as promised in contract negotiations.
At the time, Dunlap was not at all happy with his shrinking role as part of Seattle’s defensive line rotation. Inexplicably returning to cover at a higher rate than he did in eight games with the team in 2020, the double Pro Bowler entered the week off with just a half-sack and four hits. quarterback and has already had three games where he failed to generate all the statistics.
Having sparked the Seahawks’ pass rush after participating in a midseason trade with the Bengals a year earlier, Dunlap had sadly become a relative non-factor in his 12th season. But as he told the coaches upon exiting the bye, he felt he could still have a significant impact if the team did a better job of maximizing his strength and letting him chase away opposing passers-by.
“I just communicated to them like, ‘hey, I was very transparent about what I wanted to do coming back with you, I asked you what you see me doing,'” said Dunlap after the 38-30 win. Seattle vs. Arizona. “We talked about things and I just reminded them what we talked about and everyone was respectful, everyone was a pro. It’s a first class organization and there was no hard feelings in these. conversations and it all started to fall into place slowly but surely. “
Interestingly, the conversation with the Seattle coaching staff did not result in any immediate changes in playing time for Dunlap. In fact, he recorded a total of 11 snaps in weeks 12 and 13, playing less than 15% of the team’s defensive plays in both competitions. A team struggling to find a quick pass have mysteriously decided to phase out one of their best passers and barely play him.
But despite playing just seven snaps in a Week 13 win over the 49ers, Dunlap made the most of his limited chances as a situational rusher, firing Jimmy Garoppolo on what would foreshadow things. to come in the last five games.
While Dunlap registered no pressure the following week in a resounding victory over Houston, the former Florida star put in one of the best performances of his career in a rare game on Tuesday night against the Rams in Los Angeles. Although the Seahawks fell 20-10, he outscored tackles Andrew Whitworth and Bobby Evans all night long with bull rushes and ripping moves, sacking Matthew Stafford three times on just 15 quick passes.
Just five days later, after a short rest, Dunlap continued his attack on opposing quarterbacks, putting pressure on Bears signal caller Nick Foles six times on 23 assists while registering a pair of sacks and three hits. It was the first time in his illustrious career where he achieved five sacks in two games.
An ankle injury sustained early in a Week 16 win over Detroit prevented Dunlap from increasing his tally. But after being listed as questionable on the final injury report ahead of Sunday’s final, he adjusted and concluded a fantastic second half of the season by twice sacking two-threat Arizona quarterback Kyler. Murray. In total, the veteran recorded five combined presses, three quarterback hits and one crushed pass, once again filling the stats sheet.
Considering how badly the season has started for Dunlap and his pass rushing counterparts, he couldn’t have asked for a better finish and with him just four 100 sacks for his career he has vowed to reach that mark quickly next season.
“I’m very grateful to be able to end the season strong because at the start of the season I’m not going back for the reasons you mean,” said Dunlap. “I’m proud to be going back so it was very difficult, frustrating at the start of the year. But once they let us into a beat you see us all eating like a d-line and you see once i got in that job i made my career doing what i did to get those bags. My strengths are clear. i would love to build on that. ”
While Dunlap did not elaborate on the details of the discussions he had internally with the coaching staff in November, anything that was said behind closed doors seemed to be paying off not just for him, but the rest. of the Seattle defensive line. Unsurprisingly, once he started to heat up, the rest of the group followed suit as they did when he arrived in the middle of the 2020 season.
In the last six games of the season, while still struggling to find the consistency Carroll and his team want, the Seahawks have amassed 16.0 sacks as a team, finishing 11th overall among the teams in the NFL during this period. They also finished 13th in the league for quarterback pressures. By comparison, they’ve had just 18.0 sacks and 128 quarterback presses in the first 11 games, placing 30th and 19th respectively.
On an individual basis, Rasheem Green picked the best time to play his best football by feeding off Dunlap’s play, producing 3.5 sacks in the last six games before becoming a free agent in March. Despite only producing 1.5 sacks, Darrell Taylor racked up 11 pushes in those fights, while defensive tackle Poona Ford produced 14 massive pushes from within.
Scheduled to turn 33 next month, Dunlap remains on the books in 2022 with an affordable cap of $ 6.5 million. Unlike a year ago, it seems unlikely the Seahawks will release him, especially after his scintillating end to the season. Even though the franchise has just had its worst season in over a decade, there is nowhere else he would rather be and he intends for him and his defensive line teammates to play a key role in it. their quest for a rebound season.
“I feel like we’ve done some great things. Obviously the way we started this season was not where I saw myself fitting into this team when we had our conversations at this. topic and the last half of the season was after those conversations and you seeing what we’ve been able to accomplish together as a band. “